Every time, we scroll through our social media timelines and read newspapers, we got shocked by the atrocious stories of girls going through prostitution and human trafficking and our hearts break. We read about girls being sold off into marriages, ladies stuck in the Middle East and Asia being harassed without any means to come back home and girls as young as 12 stuck in prostitution. After feeling terrible, saying how unlucky they are and being thankful to be in a decent home and occupation, we go back to a daily schedules and scroll to things that make us happier.
What started out as a simple prayer group of Christian women from Rhema Ministries, turned into Rahab Uganda, an NGO that rescues and rehabilitates young girls mainly between 18 and 25 stuck in prostitution and human and domestic trafficking. Annette Kirabira (pictured above), the E.D of Rahab Uganda tells us the story;
“As a group of Christian women, we realized that there was no one in particular we were serving. However, a daughter of one of the member’s daughters witnessed a young girl from Burundi who had been lured here by the seemingly successful prostitution industry get dropped by clients after work. Unfortunately her clothes got stuck in the door and she was dragged by the car, after which she was left for dead. We rescued her but the girl was stolen from the hospital by her pimps. This was a new thing to us, we did not even know pimps existed. We took this as a sign. With time, we got together with a pastor in Katanga region, the hotbed for prostitution. We started by bringing food and clothes but decided to get organized.” This is the story of how Rahab Uganda was born eleven years ago.
What many of us don’t know is that in 2004, there were 12,000 child prostitutes in Uganda and by 2011 the number had risen to 18,000 (Uganda Youth Development Link 2011) and without a doubt continues to rise.
It breaks any heart to see that children who are the purest form of innocence are involved in sex trade, married off or trafficked. Rahab Uganda realized the need for awareness of the plight of the young girls in these situations. They provide psychosocial support, medical support, counselling and skills training to the girls at both their drop in center and residential site. The skills provided to the victims coming out of these traumatic experiences include business training, hairdressing, functional adult literacy- reading, writing and literacy.
The organization even supports the girls who are willing and have the aptitude from primary school up to University level. Above all, the organization provides as many talking opportunities for the girls because for many, their self-esteem has hit a major low.
It is the belief of Rahab Uganda that ‘Transformation is not cosmetics, comes from inside.’ The organization believes that the girls being able to make a choice of what to do in their lives is the beginning of dignity and honor.
Through their work; Rahab has been able to rescue 200 girls through their residential program (where they rehabilitate and eventually re-intergrate them into the society after assessing the safety and opportunities for the girls), 600 girls at their drop in center and 1000 girls through their field outreach.
Kirabira explained that the Ugandan law surrounding trafficking is well-defined and in place. However, enforcement and awareness is the problem. There are too many unregistered companies and that is why girls continue to be knowingly and unknowingly sold into the trafficking industry.
The Middle East continues to be a problem especially when the girls do not have safety plans. As such while Rahab Uganda is working to help the girl out of her situation, they remain part of the process to keep the girl focused and calm. Although Rahab Uganda faces resistance, especially from impoverished families engaged in ‘harmless’ domestic trafficking and possible safety problems, their motto is to keep on keeping on.
This year, in order to raise even more awareness about the plight and create prevention measures, Rahab Uganda will be holding their annual charity walk named Kampala Entebbe Challenge at a fee of only 20,000shs to “Say No to Human Trafficking” this Saturday 16th September 2017 starting at5:30 am from International School of Uganda, Lubowa to Faze 3, Entebbe.
The proceeds from this fun run for a fun cause will go to the Rahab Education Fund, which supports the girls at the Rahab home to find and live a new dignified life. If we are all to bring the change and happiness we truly want in this world, we all need to start by helping these girls to dream again.
Mrs. Annette Kirabira is a Counselling Psychologist for women. She founded Rahab in 2005, an organisation that works to empower and transform the lives of women and children affected by sexual exploitation in Uganda. As an active member of the Uganda Counselling Association, Annette provides psychosocial support, counselling and training skills to these vulnerable women and children.