Is a housegirl a victim of trafficking? What is the nature of her exploitation? Is her situation an acceptable norm in Tanzania? These are a couple of questions that the International Organisation for Migration seems to have failed to ask when designing its just launched campaign against people trafficking in Tanzania. 

So what is trafficking? To the IOM it is: 

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat, use of force or other means of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the receiving or giving of payment… to a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Now that’s bad, and it should stop. So what is their campaign in Tanzania about? Jean-Philippe Chauzy, an IOM spokesman in Geneva was reported in today’s Citizen newspaper in Dar es Salaam:

most of the victims are young boys and girls that are trafficked from rural to urban areas. “They are routinely abused and exploited either as domestic workers or working in commercial agriculture, in some cases, in fishing and mining industries,” he said.“We also know that trafficking occurs internationally and we know that Tanzanian women and children are usually trafficked for sexual exploitation, for labour exploitation into the broad southern African region, mostly South Africa, but also as far field as the Middle East and Europe.”

Let’s focus on the internal aspect. The exploitation of children, particularly girls working as servants, is one of Tanzania’s dirty little secrets – underpaid (if at all), sexually exploited (at times) and overworked.  But, as is the way with secrets, we know little about it. And neither does the IOM. Again, in The Citizen’s report Chauzy tells us that “little is known about how the trafficking network operates in Tanzania…..[trafficking] tends to be under-reported”. Needless to say, the then goes on to tell us how the trafficking network operates.

The campaign website, has what it professes to be true testimonies (hadithi za kweli) from victims of trafficking. Read them here. Unfortunately, they don’t have the ring of truth about them. “Stella” tells us of being taken to Dar es Salaam by her relative “Decorata” with promises of work and education, only to be an unpaid housemaid, forbidden to leave the house. And according to the story, that remains the case. So how did the IOM get the story? If true, why have the names not been changed? And if true, why hasn’t the IOM been able to do anything for her?

So, we have a massively expensive campaign with the usual plethora of caps, t-shirts, calendars, brochures, TV and radio spots and a concert in Dar’s swish Ubungo Plaza.  But there is no attempt to understand and respond to inequality, vulnerability and exploitation in Tanzania.