Bryan Nix, the assistant director of the Beautiful Dream Society in Lesotho, and Palesa Mafisa, a third year law student at the University of the Free State (UFS) are both involved in curbing the modern slavery of human trafficking.
While they are engaged in different facets of the struggle against human trafficking they are both involved in ministry to prostitutes on the streets of Bloemfontein and both believe that there is a need for more Christians to help end the slavery.
Nix said: “With the high unemployment rate in Lesotho, many young people find job offers in South Africa and elsewhere difficult to refuse. They do not always realise that they may be about to be exploited by human traffickers.”
He said empty promises of good job opportunities are made by human traffickers to young men and women who end in forced labour or sexual exploitation.
He is involved together with church groups in street ministry to ‘ladies of the night’, many of whom are Lesotho girls who have been trafficked to Bloemfontein. He said they make contact with the prostitutes to give them the opportunity to break the cycle and get out of their difficult situation. Girls are helped to make a new start in safe houses and sometimes taken back to Lesotho where they are cared for by the Beautiful Dream Society.
Nix said The Beautiful Dream Society was started in December 2010 after a vivid dream of Pastor Jennifer Crow, of Victory Church, Oklahoma, USA about the plight of young women in Lesotho – a country she had never heard of before then. Currently there are some permanent American staff, as well as people from Lesotho working at the Society.
The Society runs a safe house in Maseru where victims of human trafficking are counselled through their traumas, helped to rediscover their self-worth, and given skills training. They learn sewing skills, hairstyling, and job skills such as preparing a CV and how to prepare for a job interview. Four important aspects of the Society’s work are prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships. One such partnership is with Hand of Hope of Joyce Meyer Ministries World Missions which gives financial aid to the Society. Joyce Meyer’s book ‘Healing for the Broken Heart’ was translated in Sesotho for use in counselling victims.
Mafisa who is chairperson of the National Freedom Network (NFN), Kovsie branch, also participates in an outreach ministry to prostitutes in Bloemfontein.
“I’ve come across girls as young as 14 years old, living on the street. Many are from Johannesburg, Durban and Lesotho,” she said.
She said the NFN helps to connect various people and organisations with a passion to stop human trafficking. The Kovsie branch organises seminars on the UFS campus to make people more aware of this societal ill. Recently they assisted the Drama and Theatre Arts Department, UFS, to organise a dance production about human trafficking. High school children and students attending the production became aware of the dangers of empty work promises.
Anybody can become a member of the National Freedom Network and receive more information on human trafficking and ways to help the victims.
Human trafficking is a flourishing crime in South Africa and internationally, trapping some 20,9 million victims in forced labour according to the December 2012 ‘Global Report on Trafficking in Persons’ of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The report shows four forms of exploitation associated with human trafficking in Africa and the Middle East: 49% forced labour, 36% sexual exploitation, 14% other types of trafficking (including the use of body parts for muti), and 0.8% organ donation.
The South African Government has stepped up its commitment to combat human trafficking with the passing, a few months ago, of the ‘Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill’ which provides for penalties of from 5 years imprisonment or a fine, up to R100 million or life imprisonment.
However, although laws are important, the law alone cannot stop this modern day slavery, said Nix. He said more eyes are needed on the ground and more people need to be made aware of the problem of human trafficking.
“At least keep your eyes open for something that might not be right and report it to our Society, the National Freedom Network, or some other organisation,” he urged.
Mafisa said there are many good stories of young men and women who were able to break the cycle of exploitation and begin a new life, thanks to church communities and committed people who reached out.
“If you do not know what to do about the needs of people trapped through human trafficking, at least pray about it,” she implored.