BEAUTIFUL Dream Society (BDS) Anti-trafficking Programme Director, Rethabile Mahopolo says women and children are worst affected by the country’s high unemployment rate and extreme poverty, turning them into ready prey for human traffickers.
Ms Mahopolo said this in an interview with the Sunday Express at the BDS offices in Maseru, adding that survivors often found it difficult to lead normal lives after being rescued.
“Human traffickers do harmful, malicious things to their victims, rendering them hopeless and that is where we come in as an organisation to assist survivors,” Ms Mahopolo said.
BDS was established by American Pastor Jenifer Crow who began working to fight human trafficking in Lesotho in 2010. BDS runs programmes to raise awareness among the youth on ways to identify and avoid falling for traffickers’ recruiting tactics.
Ms Mahopolo said Pastor Crow founded the BDS two years after she experienced a vivid yet “unusual dream” in which she “saw the name L-E-S-O-T-H-O,’ spelled out in capital letters” and a dark-skinned woman pleading for help.
“Pastor Crow was shocked to discover that Lesotho is the name of a tiny country surrounded by South Africa which is ravaged by poverty, with the second highest rate of HIV and AIDS in the world.
“The dream became the catalyst for several trips to Lesotho and in May 2010, she founded BDS to help women victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
“Most of them cross into South Africa intending to work there,” Ms Mahopolo said.
She said most people did not fully understand human trafficking imagining it to be simply about abducting, torturing and killing people yet it was more complex and happened on frequent basis even in broad day light.
She said the different forms of trafficking included abductions, forced marriages, luring women with promises of work in local urban areas or in foreign countries and only to keep such women in various forms of bondage and exploitation.
“Some of these young girls are moved to urban areas or into foreign countries to become sex workers where they make money for pimps and they are left with nothing. They are even introduced to drugs and substance abuse, which they become addicted to with consistent use,” Ms Mahopolo said.
She said her organisation assisted one survivor who was treated to all kinds of degrading sexual acts after being lured through the internet to the South African capital, Pretoria on false promises of a well-paying job in a scheme which unfortunately involved a fellow woman.
“Many Basotho women fall into the snare because of poverty unaware that they are endangering their lives.
“It is very unfortunate because resistance is met with torture; the traffickers throw you onto the streets or even attempt to kill you. Victims eventually give into horrible demands to save their lives while those who succeed in escaping end up on the streets where they turn to prostitution as a means of survival,” Ms Mahopolo said.
She said survivors of human trafficking were often mis-judged by society which only viewed them as pathetic commercial sex workers without fully appreciating the emotional strain they had experienced.
“At BDS we offer various services to the survivors including full medical services, shelter, counselling, food and clothing.
“We are very grateful to the government for contributing a lot through the ministry of Home Affairs,” she said.
She said counselling was a lengthy but vital process to help survivors to transition back to normal lives.
“The experiences they had while trafficked stick in their minds and they continue to relive that life.
“Because they were used to being controlled, they become like horses with blinkers and for them to be fully healed we have to reach to their inner selves and prepare them for normal life. They have an element of surrender in them that whatever life they were introduced to by the human traffickers it’s the life they should continue to live even when circumstances have changed.”
Apart from working on human trafficking, BDS currently exercises official guardianship and cares full-time for 11 children ages 4 to 14 years who have been orphaned by the HIV- AIDS epidemic.
Comments are closed.