Dar es Salaam. A national network to combat illegal human trafficking in Tanzania was launched Thursday ahead of this year’s commemoration of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons scheduled for July 30, 2023.
The Tanzania Network Against Human Trafficking (TANAHUT), a loose coalition of about 105 organisations, including NGOs, universities, and media organisations, aims to enhance counter-trafficking activities in Tanzania.
According to the U.S. 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, despite Tanzania’s significant strides in eliminating the crime, the East African nation does not fully meet the minimum standards required.
The report notes that Tanzania convicted more traffickers in 2022. But the lenient sentencing for most convicted traffickers and the failure to sentence many convicted traffickers weakened deterrence and did not adequately address the nature of the crimes.
Mr Edwin Mugambila, TANAHUT’s chairperson, said combating trafficking in persons required concerted efforts by all stakeholders, warning that working in silos will fail to dismantle the million-dollar business.
“[TANAHUT] allows us to join forces in our collective efforts to end the scourge of trafficking in persons,” Mr Mugambila, who doubles as the Executive Director of Tanzania Relief Initiatives, said during the launching ceremony.
“The network will also function as a platform where experiences will be exchanged, and training will be provided to people as part of the national efforts to end illegal human trafficking in Tanzania,” he added.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), trafficking in Tanzania occurs within and across the country’s borders. Many cases involve children recruited under false promises of a good education, for example, and end up being exploited as domestic workers in the sex industry or the fishing and mining sectors.
This year’s commemoration theme – Reach Every Victim of Trafficking, Leave No One Behind – aims at raising awareness of disturbing developments and trends worldwide and calls on all stakeholders to enhance efforts to eliminate the practice.
During the launching of the coalition Thursday, network members applauded the efforts taken by authorities in combatting trafficking in persons in the country, expressing hope that if the commitment remains the same, the East African nation will end the crime.
These efforts include investigating more trafficking cases, convicting more traffickers, identifying more victims, and coordinating with local and international organisations to enhance training for government officials.
Others include the completion of the 2021-2024 National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons and some other notable amendments to the 2008 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
But Fatima Jacintha Rani, TAHANUT’s secretary, expressed that more needs to be done to make these efforts even more successful. Presenting the coalition’s core demands to the government, Rani noted that their implementation would go a long way to achieve what she called “zero trafficking.”
The demands include the need to increase the budget for the effective implementation of the 2021-2024 National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons and forming anti-trafficking committees in all districts and children protection committees at the village level to protect children from all forms of violations and exploitation.
Rani, who doubles as the Country Director of DMI – Spring of Hope, added that there is a need to ensure effective coordination among government departments in the process of combating trafficking in persons as well as the need to establish an anti-trafficking database that will store all the country’s trafficking data and help in making informed decisions concerning human trafficking issues.
“[Authorities should also] conduct regular country’s researches that show the magnitude of the human trafficking problem that would inform effectively counter-response to the problem,” Ms Rani said.
Mr Kaspar Kaspar Mmuya, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, who was the guest of honour during the launching ceremony, described human trafficking as a vile practice that needs to be combated by any means.
“It is a highly violent crime that threatens a person’s integrity and respect,” Mr Mmuya said. “It affects many women, but there are also male victims. There are also children. All of these are severely affected by this practice which involves kidnapping, forced labour, sexual exploitation, and other forms of abuse.”
He welcomed the idea of TANAHUT creation, describing the coalition as an essential initiative to unite necessary stakeholders in the collective efforts to end the crime.
“It signifies the importance of actions over words,” Mr Mmuya said. “Actions are what matters, and they are the ones that will make our efforts to combat this dreadful practice successful.”