Who is Vulnerable to Human Trafficking?

Vulnerabilities in a Township Environment: Ga-Rankuwa Pretoria, South Africa

Have you ever wondered who the victims of human trafficking are? No, it isn’t simply people in North Africa or Asia. There are people being trafficked in your own backyard! To find out more about what exactly what human trafficking is read this blog. This blog is meant to inform you on the most vulnerable people to be trafficked in Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa. However, it isn’t only people in townships who can are vulnerable to human trafficking! Which we’ll have another blog about that coming soon. But for now we did research in this township to see who the most vulnerable people are to fall prey to human trafficking.

LOCATION: Ga-Rankuwa Township, South Africa

POPULATION: 90, 945

UNEMPLOYMENT: 28%

The Vulnerability of Being Unemployed

In this community, the unemployment rate is high, and 60% are women. Women usually depend on child support grants which is less than R500.00 a month. For them to survive they often times get what they call “piece jobs.” These are jobs such as doing laundry, ironing, cleaning the yard or babysitting for the neighbor for R300.00 or less a month. Lack of a proper income makes women vulnerable, leading some to be willing to do anything to get extra cash.

Many of the yards in people’s houses have back rooms and shacks for rental. Most of the tenants are young women with children. They are usually surrounded by lots of single men whereby alcohol and parties are the “culture.” Being exposed to the party culture, with lots of strangers around also make young women and children vulnerable.

Because of lack of food and the desire to feed their children, some women sell their bodies right in their yards, sometimes even in front of their children. Read the following testimony from a girl in the community:

Lerato

Lerato* (name changed for privacy) – I am 11 years old and in Grade 5. I’m living with my mom and my 5 year old brother. We stay in government housing which has one bedroom, a small bathroom, and sitting room combined with a small kitchen. We all share the same bed, that is, if one of my mum’s “friends” is not visiting. My mum doesn’t work. But she always tells us that she works from home because her “friends” give her money every time they visit and she says they are paying her for her services. Sometimes my brother and I sleep alone when one of her friends takes her to work nightshift. And sometimes we sleep in the kitchen floor when they work in our house.

When she is not working, she gets angry at us, beats us up and blaming us that we are the reason she didn’t get a “job” that day. When this happens we know we are not going to eat that day. She also drinks a lot. I don’t know my dad. My mum always tells my brother and me that our fathers were useless and bad and they didn’t want us.

She keeps on telling me that I’m a big girl now and I have to bring money to help her and she will teach me how. I’m scared because her “friends” make me feel uncomfortable whenever they are around.”

So far, Lerato hasn’t been forced to sell her body for money, but some family members sell the young girls in their households for sex so that they can have food on the table.

The Vulnerability of Children

Children in this community are vulnerable to human trafficking often times due to child negligence. Children between 3 and 7 years are at times left home alone and unattended for various reasons. Sometimes it is because the caregivers are at work and cannot afford to have someone watch them during the day. Other times it is due to selfishness on the parent’s side.

I was recently told this story: “A young woman locked her 3 and 7 year old daughters inside their shack for almost a month. The mom cooked porridge in a big pot and left it for them to feed themselves. Unfortunately the porridge was finished before she got back. The children were using the same pot as their toilet. They got hungry and started to eat what was in the pot. By God’s grace they were saved in time, when their neighbors found them. The mother was found a week later at her boyfriend’s place.”

The Vulnerability of Youth

Youth love to explore, and this makes them the easy targets and vulnerable for human trafficking because they easily grab any opportunity that comes their way. Read the following testimony from a youth in the community.

Tshepi

A few girls had gone missing after joining this “modeling” agency. I started to panic. The company called us several comes insisting that we must urgently come because we will be replaced if we don’t show up soon as they are doing us a “favour”.

My name is Tshepi* (name changed). I am 20 years old and completed my matric in 2019. 2020 was my gap year. My intention was to get a part-time job and get my driver’s license. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned due to lockdown. No company was hiring anyone, instead, people were losing their jobs. With nothing else to do, my five friends and I registered online with a certain “modeling company.” We created impressive profiles and two of us were selected for photoshoot.

We were so excited, but before we went, a close family friend, who happened to be a policeman, warned us that the same company we were going to is one of the companies that is under investigations. A few girls had gone missing after joining this “modeling” agency. I started to panic. The company called us several comes insisting that we must urgently come because we will be replaced if we don’t show up soon as they are doing us a “favour”. We blocked their numbers and stopped answering unknown numbers.

Boredom

Some children and youth have nothing to do in their spare time. Boys play soccer, but where there are no soccer grounds or parks for children, youth get into trouble or trouble finds them.

There have been cases where people approach boys who play soccer, claiming that they want to help them with training, raising funds for gear and improving the grounds. Sadly, they end up using these poor boys for their own benefits.

Some young girls look for something that will keep them busy and that will take them out of the streets. Unfortunately, if they come across the wrong people, they end up being used, manipulated and exploited by traffickers in the name of helping them.

Here is another story of someone in the community who was trying to be productive with her time, but was still being exploited and at risk of being trafficked.

Omphile

Omphile* (name changed) and her friends started a dancing group. They would go around town dancing trying to raise funds so that they could buy drums for themselves They also tried to raise funds for kids who cannot afford lunchboxes or books for school. But adults were exploiting them, by wanting to manage them and take control of the money.

They were vulnerable to human trafficking because a trafficker might come in the name of sponsoring them and take them for their own gain.

Conclusion

After researching and speaking to people in this community the three main groups of people who are vulnerable to being trafficked are those who are unemployed, especially women, along with children and youth. This is why awareness is so important in these communities and schools!

Find out more of how we raise awareness and be empowered to raise awareness in your community by attending our next Traffick Wise Seminar.

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