The Travesty of Human Trafficking in South Africa

Renowned South African human rights lawyer George Bizos was moved to tears by the abuses highlighted in an exhibition on human trafficking in South Africa, launched at Constitutional Hill, writes Jackie Bischof for
Looking at the photographs,  Bizos said he “wondered what happened to sections of the Constitution in relation to the girls [in the images].”  Bizos said he was shocked to see how the photographs displayed “practically every one of the sub-sections in Section 28 [being] evidently disregarded.” Section 28 in the South African Bill of Rights deals the protection of children.Bizos said he was confounded that human trafficking was still an issue in South Africa when other regions, such as parts of Europe, had virtually eradicated the  problem within ten years of tackling it. “We don’t have to shout from the rooftops [about trafficking],” said Bizos. “We have [the media] and other ways in which our voices can be heard. But let’s not be silent.” He added that the first step that needs to be taken is urgently pushing through human trafficking legislation currently before Parliament.

The exhibition will run through mid-December and is part of Media Monitoring Africa’s interrogation of the media’s coverage of human trafficking in the country before, during and after the 2010 World Cup.Situated in the old Women’s Gaol at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, which housed several female activists during the apartheid era, the exhibition features the photographs of Melanie Hamman, who has been visually documenting incidences of human trafficking around the world since 2007. The exhibition of her work in South Africa features pictures of three victims who had been lured away from their home with empty promises of work and financial gain and were struggling to escape their situation.

Human trafficking is something that the ordinary South African is totally oblivious to, says Hamman, and the incredible wealth in the country makes it even harder to understand how the trafficking of young children can be so rife.“SA is a wonderfully prosperous country, and there’s so much hope and so much has been achieved in the last ten years,” said Hamman. “But I see the wealth and the prosperity and I’ve stepped into the darkest, most impoverished parts of this nation as well. And something about that is just not right. How can a nation care? And why doesn’t a nation care?” asked Hamman. Pursuing a life that is even “basically happy” is an impossible obstacle for some of the children who are trafficked.With

Hamman’s photos flanking one wall, the other side of the room featured images chosen by MMA’s Child Media Monitors. Some of the images had been taken by Hamman while others were captured by amateur photographers from the Umuzi Photo Club in Soweto. Over a period of four months, MMA ran media workshops with around 60 ‘Child Media Monitors’ aged 9 to 13, looking at whether South African media coverage of children was fair and balanced. A portion of the children focussed on the issue of child trafficking. Photographs chosen by the children and their responses to the pictures appeared in the exhibition.The children’s participation in the exhibition allowed them to “communicate their pressing concerns relating to children’s rights; how these rights are upheld or denied in their own communities and the potential impact this may have,” said the MMA’s William Bird.Prior to the exhibition, Hamman and the children also discussed media coverage of child trafficking rumours over the World Cup period and debated whether sensational reporting such as figures of 100 000 girls being trafficked in for the World Cup, or children being kidnapped and sold for tens of thousands of rands helped the issue or contributed to media fatigue.Some of the rumours were way off the mark. “South African children aren’t that valuable,” said Hamman. “It can cost you R100 for a pimp to buy a South African child. The media is not really telling the right story.”The exhibition will run until the middle of December at the Women’s Gaol at Constitution Hill on Kotze Street, Johannesburg. For more information on the MMA, visit


SAAHTT Newsletter 2nd Edition goes live tomorrow. Here is a teaser!!

We launched our email newsletter two months back. The second edition will be posted tomorrow. Here is a teaser

SAAHTT Newsletter Edition 2 Teaser!

We hope you will enjoy reading this tomorrow. If you would like to receive our newsletter straight to your inbox, please subscribe on this blog. Your email will only be used for the purposes of receiving this email newsletter. If at any time you feel you you do not want to receive any more news, updates or newsletters from us you can immediately unsubscribe.

Gilbert Makore

Ashton Kutcher to UN: Twitter, Facebook can be Great Weapons in Fight Against Human Trafficking

By Pam BristowHuffington Post

I was fortunate enough to be present at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on November 4 for the launch of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons. To be managed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the fund will provide humanitarian, legal, and financial aid to victims of human trafficking. The initiative is a central element of the new UN Global Plan of Action adopted by the UN General Assembly this past July.

Having worked on other UNODC projects, I can personally attest to how much weight this UN agency throws behind combating one of the great atrocities of our time. This meeting was no exception. Alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sat the meeting’s moderator — two time New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning author-journalist Nicholas Kristof — and actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher whose humanitarian work in the arena of human trafficking was being highlighted. The couple’s organization, DNA, is working to abolish modern-day slavery in the United States and abroad. The meeting took an interesting turn when the conversation shifted to Kutcher’s mastery of social networking and how he was channeling his online prowess to serve his nonprofit’s mission.


Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

After sobering opening remarks by the Secretary-General on the current scope of the 32 billion dollar international human trafficking trade, Kristof introduced Kutcher, humorously pointing out Kutcher ‘s 6 million Twitter followers versus the UN’s 140,000. In response, Kutcher offered new insight to Kristof’s leading question “Why the internet?”

The actor-activist argued that, while having fueled the sex trade with its built-in anonymity, speed, and ease of access, the internet has also given law enforcement and activist groups a strong weapon with which to combat trafficking and offer aid to victims. Kutcher pointed out that part of what makes dismantling and exposing trafficking networks so challenging is the industry’s global nature. For example, in just one transaction, several countries will likely be involved. The “broker” will be in Country A, the victim may be abducted from Country B, the transaction will take place in Country C, and the final customer will return home to Country D with his new acquisition. Additionally 76 percent of these child trafficking transactions happen on the internet. The internet, Kutcher argues, is a global solution to a global problem, allowing us to fight and expose human trafficking across borders.

Victim demographics play a factor as well. The average American age for forced entry into the sex trade is 13. While this is a devastating statistic, it plays in favor of using the internet as a tool to reach at-risk adolescents, many of whom are runaways. According to Kutcher many of these kids are still updating their social networking pages once they have left home. Kutcher and Moore have seized this opportunity by creating partnerships with a coalition of tech companies including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to develop technological solutions to the problem of child sex slavery. Initiatives include the implementation of online predator deterrants as well as PhotoDNA and geo-location technology to help protect children and find and rescue victims.

Kutcher said his Twitter presence has also given him a platform to affect male attitudes about the sex trade. “I can use Twitter to implore men around the world to understand that buying sex isn’t cool… when they find out that the average age of entry to the business is 13 and that most of these girls are held against their own will, suddenly it becomes a lot less sexy.”

At the peak of the legal slave trade in 1780, an estimated 80,000 slaves from Africa were brought to the New World in one year. Almost 250 years later, the UN estimates that there are approximately 2.5 million slaves in captivity worldwide at any time. As Kutcher pointed out, “we agreed to abandon slavery 62 years ago (with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948.) We are not asking for new laws. Let’s just enforce the ones we have.”

Those wishing to learn more or make a pledge to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons can visit the UNODC fund page.

SAAHTT Blog Turns 1 !

The Southern African Anti Human Trafficking Trust (SAAHTT) blog is now a year old and we are pretty excited by achievements and results we have been able to attain as an organisation, in no small part, due to the blog. It all started on 22 October 2009 with this post and 12 months later we have managed to post a total of 60 posts on the blog ranging from videos, presentations, articles, news-clips and wide ranging analyses. That represents 5 blog posts per month or a post every week. Over 90% of those 60 posts is original content that we have created on human trafficking, thereby creating an important information repository on human trafficking with a focus on southern Africa. What is more exciting more than any other statistic is the fact that the blog has drawn over 5000 views since we started and the Facebook page has now grown to over 1100 active modern day abolitionists who believe in combatting human trafficking. We are confident that the blog has not just been an end itself. But has allowed SAAHTT to educate and empower. Indeed we have received hundreds of comments and incoming links on the blog articles on facebook, twitter and the blog itself.

The post that began it all

The post that began it all

We realise though that this is not the end of the journey but represents the start of much more work to come. We are pretty excited as we go into the second year and promise to make this blog more relevant and better informing. We hope it will continue to inspire people to take action and take a stand against human trafficking. So, here’s to another exciting 12 months!!! Stay engaged.

Gilbert Makore


Teaser: SAAHTT’s new e-Newsletter

The Southern African Anti Human Trafficking Trust (SAAHTT) is committed to developing various strategies to combat modern day slavery in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. This commitment is borne from the realisation that there is very limited knowledge and capacity to address human trafficking despite the increasing evidence pointing to the increase in incidences of trafficking. To this end we aim to increase awareness on the occurrence of human trafficking within the region through harnessing various media platforms including blogs, new social media tools and indeed traditional methods of raising awareness like encouraging word of mouth and developing visibility materials. We are therefore super excited to state that we will be launching a e-newsletter that will include projects by SAAHTT, anti human trafficking news from around SADC and any other relevant human trafficking  information. The newsletter will be sent out to subscribers every 2 months and we will be incorporating changes and new features in subsequent editions, taking into account feedback from you. The newsletter will be in HTML and or plain text and will allow you to share its contents on facebook, twitter and other platforms. Please subscribe to this blog in-order for us to put you on the mailing list.   You can subscribe by clicking the tab on the right pane of the blog-‘subscribe by e-mail’ or you could also send a blank e-mail to . We will not publicise your private e-mail and you will still have the option to unsubscribe at any moment you feel you want out. Here is a teaser:

SAAHTT e-newsletter

SAAHTT e-newsletter

SAAHTT in 140 characters

Shakespeare once said ‘brevity is the soul of wit’. Thomas Jefferson concured and stated that ‘the most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do’ And with twitter becoming a real communications mainstay in our lives, we figure that its really important to be able to describe what SAAHTT does in 14o character.



SAAHTT ‘partners with civil society, communities and government to combat modern day slavery in southern Africa through research, awareness raising and capacity building’

-thats 141 chracters without spaces and 162 characters with spaces. Now, what to do with those 42 characters??? Just having a little fun 🙂

Reflections on our application to the Echoing Green Fellowhsip

Late last year, we (SAAHTT) applied to the Echoing Green Fellowship. This is one of the best international fellowship programmes for social entrepreneurs. The program is for non profit and for profit interventions that are aimed at addressing the world’s social needs. It is a fellowship for ‘world changers’. It is also one of the most competitive fellowship programmes around. We applied to be part of the Echoing Green fellowship last year (2009). We were motivated by the opportunity because it would present us with relationships, mentorship and equally important seed capital. The money would have been a welcome boost for the organisation as it would have meant that we would be able to initiate and upscale projects to combat modern day slavery.

echoing green website

echoing green website

While the fellowship is open to both non profit and for-profit ventures it is often regarded as a purely social entrepreneurship programme. We still applied to the programme with full knowledge to this because while we are a non profit project, we believe in the ethos of social entrepreneurship and sustainability. We believe that every dollar SAAHTT gets should be optimally used to counter human trafficking in Southern Africa. We believe in efficiency and in being excellent in every activity we undertake. We believe in communicating well with all our stakeholders and we hate window dressing. These are things that are missing in non profits globally. We hope to buck the trend in our own little way. But that is just an aside.

The real story is we went on to put our all behind the application. The application is so taxing because it demands you to think through your project idea. Echoing Green fellows are people with projects still in the start up phase and often this means people who are still pivoting and developing their ideas. In addition, the application requires a certain level of brevity that is so demanding. Explaining everything in 500-1000 word limits is difficult. Want to know how that can be-imagine having to explain everything about your project in Twitter characters (140 characters). But we managed to go through the first round. We were one of only 350 projects that went through to the second phase, out of the initial 1100 that had applied. The invitation to complete the second phase application was a congratulatory email notifying SAAHTT that we constituted 30% of organisations that had passed the first phase. We were really overjoyed at the SAAHTT offices. This was validation of our project idea. It meant so much to us as the SAAHTT project idea implementation was only 2-3 months old.

We, however, remained tempered by the fact that the process was not complete and was even more difficult through the second phase. We managed to get through the second phase application and submitted. Then we……waited…….and……waited…….and ……..waited. The process itself was not as long as the last sentence seems to portray. It was just two months of waiting. But still, it was such a nail biting wait and a tad bit stressful. And then the dreaded results came in. The regret email was so crushing. Here at SAAHTT we do not take disappointment as easily as we would like. We were so disappointed and pretty much preferred not to talk about it. And then another e-mail came. It was the feedback to our application.

Now this e-mail is not to detail how disappointed we were by failing to get the fellowship. This post is instead an unashamed thumbs up to the Echoing Green programme and more importantly in our personal experience, the application process. The application process allowed us to introspect. To think about what exactly it is SAAHTT intends to do and why it is going about it in one way and not the other. It allowed us to think ahead and really envision the project. It allowed us to discover new insight into the problem of human trafficking in southern Africa. And to boot, we got an outsider’s view of SAAHTT. A professional evaluation of our ideas and strategies. You just do not get that kind of feedback from other programmes. Granted, fundraising is brutal. But we sure did enjoy the process of applying for the Echoing Green Fellowship despite the rollercoaster of emotions  🙂 So what happened since then. Well, we regrouped, doubled up and hunkered down. We continue to incrementally address no less one of the biggest and daunting challenges of our time-human trafficking/modern day slavery.

Most of all, congratulations to the folks who got in. We need you to change the world. Nothing less:)