Teenage girls targeted for sexual exploitation
Published on February 7, 2008, 12:00 am
By Beatrice ObwochaTeenage girls fleeing their homes to escape post-election skirmishes and finding temporary shelter at the Nakuru Showground now face another threat.
They have become prey to men who exploit them sexually as well as those seeking cheap labour.
In a shocking revelation this week, the girls, aged between 12 and 18 said they had become victims of child labour and sexual abuse.
Humanitarian organisations, whose hands are full in providing food and shelter, now have another situation in their hands — to protect the vulnerable groups from exploitation.
A committee in charge of the camps for the displaced people in Nakuru District and the local branch of Kenya Red Cross Society have raised a flag over these abuses.
Kenya Red Cross Nakuru branch Chairman, Mr Pascal Mbeche said on Tuesday that he had received complaints over sexual exploitation of girls in and outside the camp.
He said they had launched investigations over the same and the culprits would be brought to book.
Organisations involved in assisting the displaced persons revealed that girls were being sexually exploited.
Some ‘Good Samaritans’ lure girls aged between 14 and 18 out of the camp to take them to brothels, the organisations said.
“We have witnessed girls taken out of the camp in turns and later returned and on investigation discovered that some of the donors and people posing as volunteers were behind the scam,” said a member of a humanitarian group.
The situation has forced some of the girls to undergo counselling and HIV/Aids testing after they reported the matter to an official.
The identity of the girls could not be revealed, as they were minors.
The gravity of the matter was felt on Tuesday when Red Cross officials, the Provincial Administration, and police in charge of camps for displaced people in Nakuru held a lengthy meeting to discuss the issue.
A similar meeting attended by Nakuru DC, Mr Wilson Wanyanga took place last Monday.
A source present at the meeting told The Standard that police were called in to investigate and arrest those involved in the scam.
It emerged that some people were posing as volunteers from non-governmental organisations only for them to sneak girls out of the camps.
In one case, it was alleged that a man who has been making donations at the camp was behind the scam.
It was also alleged that some of the fake volunteers remain in the camp after 6pm only to lure girls to have sex with them in exchange for cash.
One of the Red Cross workers who did not want to be named said the man drives four girls in his car out of the camp on the pretext that he was taking them to the hairdresser or feed them.
“He has been making two trips a day, picking three to four girls as early as seven and returning them at around noon only to pick others and return them in the evening,” said the worker.
Some of the girls, the worker said, had revealed that they were taken to brothels where they were offered food and cash in exchange for sex.
On the other hand, the co-ordinator in charge of the camps in the district, Mr Jesse Njoroge said cases of child labour were alarming.
Persons seeking cheap labour had invaded the camps forcing them to strictly vet those entering and leaving the camp.
Notices too have been pinned in various locations warning that the camp was not a source for cheap labour.
‘Hatuuzi wasichana na wavulana wa kazi hapa’ (we do not have girls and boys for cheap labour here)’, read one of the notices at the Nakuru Showground where hundreds of internally displaced people were camping.
‘This camp is not a source of cheap labour’ read another.
Njoroge said they discovered that some girls had been lured out of the camp and his officers had since rescued thirty-one underage girls from cheap labour.
He said the girls were ferried to various locations within Nakuru town since the camp was started.
He said some people were taking advantage of the displaced persons and duped them to take them for cheap labour.
Investigations by The Standard revealed that some people were going to the camps pretending they were visiting people only to end up sourcing for labour.
Some volunteers too are taking advantage of their access to the camp to get the girls either to work for them or their friends.
In some cases, the underage girls were being lured out of the camps with a promise of well paying jobs but ended up as house girls.
Some of underage girls camping at the showground who were interviewed said that women who offered them jobs of house helps had approached them.
Ms Rahab Njuguna, 16, said women who asked her if she would be willing to work as a house help approached her twice on different occasions.
“I refused and told them that I was still a student and not ready to work,” she said.
Before fleeing their home in Burnt Forest last month after violence broke out, Njuguna was a Form Two student at Kamuyu High School.
She said one of those who approached her wore a volunteer badge and after she refused, she asked her if she could help her look for another girl.
“She asked me twice if I got a girl willing to work for her but I told her I have not. She has not asked me again,” she said.
Women at the showground seeking house girls also approached Ms Virginia Wangui, 15.
She said her parents had cautioned her against accepting offers from strangers.
“My parents cautioned me that there were people who were looking for house helps and I should keep away,” Wangui said.