Videos and photographs of young women living under appalling conditions in the Middle East are always surfacing. We talk about them for a while and life seemingly goes on. Meanwhile, some people are benefitting from the plight of these women. This newspaper recently ran a story about two girls who are stuck in Oman.
The girls went to the country through a man who earns a commission for recruiting them. This, therefore, puts the girls at his mercy.
One girl fell ill and the other says she had had enough of the sexual abuse she suffered at her employers’ hands. While it is clear that the girls are victims of human trafficking and torture, there does not seem to be a clear plan to get these girls out of trouble.
Going by the comment from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, it looks like the girls are on their own. The man who took them to Oman is required to refund the company that paid him.
Meanwhile, the girls are allegedly in a safe house while the man demands that they pay the more than Shs7 million he is expected to give back to the agency.
This is a sad state of affairs not just for the girls but also for Uganda.
Decent work for its citizens is one of the economic growth indicators as highlighted by the sustainable development goals (SDGs) which Uganda subscribes to.
According to SDG 8, Uganda should be taking “immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking”. We should also be able to “protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment”.
These are goals we hope to achieve by 2030. However, in 2019 efforts to keep our girls from being exploited are not as effective as they should be.
While government has entered partnerships with countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia in order to get a handle on the problem, this is not enough. What is government doing in countries such as Oman where the most common cases are being reported? What measures are in place to sensitise the public about labour laws in the countries they are to go to? What is being done to people involved in human trafficking?
There are several cases of women being trafficked to other countries, with witnesses willing to speak. The ministry, going by the statement in relation to case mentioned earlier, knows about these cases. Now that they know about it, it is imperative that clear action is taken to bring it to an end.