Johannesburg Students Launch Social Media Campaign to Combat Human Trafficking
IOM, in partnership with University of Johannesburg (UJ) strategic communications students, has rolled out a week-long social media campaign across South Africa for Human Trafficking Week, 3-7 October 2016.
The campaign forms part of the university’s annual strategic communications curriculum and is included in student assessment. This type of collaboration gives the students an opportunity to be involved with complex social issues such as human trafficking.
The campaign will be used as a platform to target young people and the general public to provide information, raise awareness and educate the masses on the risks, signs and dangers of human trafficking.
UJ students formed part of a photoshoot showcasing the three types of trafficking the project is focusing on this year. They include sexual exploitation, domestic/labour exploitation and child trafficking.
UJ project director and lecturer Caroline Azionya said: “This year’s collaboration has given us an opportunity to create a space where students were made aware of trafficking and activated to become the solution. It is wonderful to see how our students have become passionate activists for the cause.”
Due to its hidden nature, measuring trafficking in terms of statistics in South Africa is very difficult. There is however, evidence that this crime is being committed in South Africa.
The US State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons report notes: “South African children are recruited from poor rural areas to urban centres where girls are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude and boys are forced to work in street vending, food service, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. Many children, including those with disabilities, are exploited in forced begging. Non-consensual and illegal ukuthwala (the forced marriage of girls as young as 12 to adult men) is practiced in some remote villages in Eastern Cape Province, exposing some of these girls to forced labour and sex slavery.”
Testimony from victims assisted by IOM since 2004 shows that South Africans are also being trafficked to other countries, that traffickers use the country as a transit destination, and that there some victims are recruited from Eastern Europe and Asia, primarily Thailand, and brought to South Africa.
IOM South Africa Chief of Mission Richard Ots said: “Trafficking arguably is the most important human rights battle of our days. It is often referred to as modern slavery, which I think offers us the correct perspective. Our fight against trafficking is the equivalent of the historical fight against the slavery of the 1700’s and 1800’s.”
“Current estimates of the number of slaves around the world range between 15 and 30 million people. That is more than in any point in history. Human trafficking is trade in people. We are faced with an enormous challenge, and one that will require time, effort, dedication and financial investment,” he added.