"I Am Not for Sale": the Community of Sant’Egidio in Makerere on World Youth Day, speaks out against modern trafficking in persons

Celebrating the World Youth Day, the members of Sant’Egidio Makerere had a meeting to discuss and learn more about modern trafficking in persons schemes that prey on unsuspecting and frustrated young persons who are seeking for ways to be relevant in the society and be able to carter for their needs and the needs of their family members.
Trafficking in persons violates the very fundamentals of human dignity which is rooted in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26-27). As taught by the Fathers of the II Vatican Council in the Pastoral Document on the Church and the Morden World Gaudium et Spes, "The root reason for human dignity lies in man's call to communion with God. From the very circumstance of his origin man is already invited to converse with God".

In a pastoral letter on trafficking in persons the Catholic Bishops of Uganda underline that the evil of human trafficking is rooted in the objectification of the human person for commercial purposes such as organ harvesting, forced cheap labour, sexual exploitation. Traffickers prey on the vulnerability and ignorance of the target young persons, manipulating them into thinking that life is much better outside the country even if it means having to do menial jobs. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting victims - once helped to leave their country by traffickers - are subjected to inhumane conditions of work and deprived of all dignity.

In 2020, the Ugandan Government identified 666 victims of trafficking, most being forced laborers. The majority were enroute to Kenya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. The number of victims decreased between April and September 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the suspension of internal and international travel. However, the number increased in November and December 2021 due to reopening air and international travel. International organizations identified 20 Ugandan victims abroad, while NGO ( Non-governmental organization) reports identified 150 child labour and sex trafficking victims. Recruiters target girls and women aged 13-24 years for domestic sex trafficking, especially near sports tournaments and road construction projects. In 2018, an international organization estimated there are between 7,000 and 12,000 children exploited in sex trafficking in Uganda. Young women remained the most at risk for transnational trafficking, usually seeking employment as domestic workers in Kenya and the Middle East; at times traffickers fraudulently recruited Ugandan women for employment and then exploited them in sex trafficking. (Source: 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report - United States Department of State).

The theme of the meeting held by the Community members of Makerere University “I am not for Sale” is geared at emphasizing on the dignity of every person, educating oneself on the dangers of  trafficking in persons and how to recognize trafficking schemes meant to trap young people. The youth are a major target for exploitation, but they are also a great weapon for fighting against human trafficking. Many students pledged to lend their voices as advocates in the fight against this evil; human trafficking, that is preying on unsuspecting young people.
Just as Pope Francis in his message to the youth at the just concluded meeting in Lisbon 2023 underlines  “Young people always represent the hope for new unity within our fragmented and divided human family”. Pope Francis invites the youth to hasten their feet and hearts to encounter different persons and their needs, to bridge distances – between generations, social classes, ethnic and other groups – and even put an end to wars.

Sant'Egidio Makerere gladly embraces the message of Pope Francis, to build bridges between generations and social classes, and to hasten the encounter with the world and the suffering it faces, becoming the voice of the voiceless, and in this case, the prophetic voice that speaks against the evil of trafficking in persons in Uganda and in the world.