Most information on human trafficking is focused on southeast Asia and is therefore often of limited relevance in Kenya
By Nita Bhalla
NAIROBI, March 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Kenyan charity launched a range of educational materials on Tuesday to teach children about the dangers of trafficking, in a bid to combat child slavery and exploitation.
Most information on human trafficking, including images, is focused on southeast Asia, said Sophie Otiende of HAART Kenya, and is therefore often of limited relevance in Kenya.
"If children are not able to relate, they cannot identify, and it is unlikely that the information will make a difference to them," she said.
"So we felt it was important to design something which suited them, and make it also engaging."
The International Labour Organization says one in four of the world's estimated 40 million slaves are children.
Activists say there are few tools to help minors recognise the signs and avoid the dangers - particularly in Africa.
HAART said not enough was being done to teach children of the risks.
Otiende said the charity hoped the child-friendly materials - including colourful posters, brochures and a teaching manual - would be copied and used across the country in schools, youth clubs and church groups.
The manual helps teachers plan lessons on subjects ranging from basic child rights - such as their right to shelter and food, as well as an environment free of abuse - to explaining what traffickers and recruiters are.
The lessons include discussions, songs, drawings and even role-playing to get the message across.
The government welcomed the initiative.
"We are very keen to look at ways on how to empower communities to tackle human trafficking," Ruth Njuguna, a member of the anti-trafficking committee at the labour ministry, told delegates at the event.
"Once people understand the issue, they will be able to recognise the indicators, and this will help in prevention."
Kenya is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children who are trafficked into forced labour and sexual slavery, according to the U.S. State Department's 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.
Children are bought and sold into forced labour in domestic work, farming, fishing, herding, street-vending and begging. Girls and boys are also exploited in prostitution throughout Kenya, including in sex tourism on the coast, it added.
There are no accurate figures on the number of children trafficked in Kenya. However, the 2017 TIP report said the Kenyan government had identified 153 child victims in 2016.
Campaigners say the true number is far higher, adding that victims often do not understand they have been trafficked and enslaved, are fearful of their traffickers, or even feel ashamed - especially if they were forced into sex work.
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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