Child trafficking is common in the impoverished Karamoja region; each year, 400-900 children (90% girls) are trafficked for sexual exploitation and street begging. Napak district in Karamoja is a key trafficking source area. Most Karimojongs are forced to migrate due to insecurity and harsh climatic conditions that have caused drought, poverty and food insecurity in the region. There is also evidence that children are sometimes lured out of Karamoja by their peers, or by individuals promising better opportunities. Napeyok (16 years old) is one of the girls who was forced to migrate due to poverty. She lived in Napak district in Uganda. Her mother is the family´s main breadwinner who earns a living by buying and selling charcoal packed in small colourless polythene bags. Due to financial constraints, Napeyok only managed to study up to primary six. She then dropped out when she was 15 years old and made a decision to go to Nairobi, Kenya. Leaving home She borrowed money from her friend and set out to go to the city. ¨I got the money and travelled to Busia, where I was accommodated by some ladies for a few days before proceeding to Nairobi to look for work. I had no prior knowledge about Nairobi and neither did I know anyone there. I had nowhere to sleep and nowhere to start from.¨ Her first day in Nairobi was tough. With nowhere to seek refuge from, she slept out in the rain, with no sweater, coat, jacket or even bed sheet to cover herself. The place was not safe at all. It left her exposed to all kinds of people from sex workers to thieves. Tough life Napeyok later got a job as a domestic worker. She never had any experience with this kind of work before which made it very difficult for her to perform the tasks. ¨My work included mopping the entire house, washing utensils, scrubbing the walls of the house, washing clothes, cooking, buying groceries from the market, preparing children and taking them to school and back, etc. Her employer shouted at her and sometimes threatened to beat her up. She ran away and got another job still as a domestic worker but the grass wasn´t any greener. ¨My new employer even turned out to be worse. She exploited me so much and could not even allow me to rest or even sleep at night. I would sleep at 2 am and had to be up by 4 am to start working again.¨ Napeyok explained. Napeyok had no choice but to go back to living on the streets. Safe repatriation Luckily for Napeyok, she recalled that other girls in her similar situation had informed her that the Kenyan government was looking for Karamojong girls to safely repatriate back home. She was one of the 90+ Karamojong girls who were identified by Counter Human Trafficking Trust East Africa (CHTEA) in Kenya. CHTEA contacted Dwelling Places (TdH NL partner) for support. Terre des Hommes Netherlands in partnership with Dwelling Places and other organisations ensured that Napeyok - and 31 other girls were finally brought back home and successfully reintegrated in August 2021. Back home Before their reintegration, the girls were taken to a rehabilitation centre where they were taught life-changing skills like business skills and how to conduct themselves upon reintegration. Now, Napeyok is back home and waiting to be enrolled in a skills training course. She is hopeful about going back to school even though schools in Uganda are still closed due to Covid-19. “I am very happy to be with my parents and siblings, and even if there are a lot of hardships in my family like poverty, hunger, etc. I know that these are for all families, and I wouldn’t allow it to make me lose focus of my dream of studying and becoming a nurse.” We are committed to bringing back the thousands of vulnerable Karamojong children who have been trafficked or who have migrated to Kenya by reaching out to them and ensuring their safe repatriation back home and facilitating sustainable reintegration.
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