Why the silence?
Why isn’t anyone talking about Zimbabwe’s missing women and girls?
SOME are women, but many are still girls in the eyes of the corruptible laws that govern the world. We can get into the politics of calling them girls later – but why isn’t anyone talking about Zimbabwe’s 100 missing women and girls who are still being held against their will in a foreign land?
For months, and possibly years, young Zimbabwean women have been taken to the Middle East with the promise of a meaningful job – only to be forced to work as maids and servants. The more unfortunate ones are forced into the sex trade. Worse still, some are never seen or heard from again.
The Zimbabwean press has been on top of this story but it hasn’t made a blip on the international media landscape or spawned a hashtag similar to Nigeria’s #BringBackOurGirls.
Nokuthula, a young, ambitious woman, left her mother Leah Lunga’s home 18 months ago and never returned. She planned to work in the Middle East and send money home to help her family in Zimbabwe.
The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking in the world; 68 percent are trapped in forced labour, 26 percent are children, 55 percent are women and girls.
Forced labour and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide. This is almost certainly the reason we’ll never be able to stop it. Money is what matters, not lives, and the rot appears to go high up. A former Kuwaiti ambassador to Zimbabwe has been accused of being the ring-leader of the trafficking ring, and that he used his status and power to lure the women.
The Zimbabwean government, to its credit, has facilitated the return of some of the missing girls, set up a special fund to pay for the costs and asked Kuwait not to process domestic worker visas from Zimbabwe. The heroic efforts of Zimbabwean Ambassador to Kuwait, Mark Grey Marongwe, and his team who traced the victims, must be applauded.
Sadly, even legitimate work opportunities in the Middle East will be drowned out by the climate fear and distrust now prevailing. But the safety of women like Nokuthula is paramount. They must be found and returned to their families – unharmed.
The grave economic situation in Zimbabwe has forced many desperate young women to take their chances abroad. Creeping poverty and drought has also forced families to sell off their children through marriage. In Chipinge, east of Harare, a 10-year-old girl was exchanged for food. A couple allegedly exchanged their granddaughter for mielie meal and R500.
Life on the precipice in Zimbabwe is tragic and torturous – and it is our sisters and mothers who bear the brunt of the sacrifices forced upon them.
It is no coincidence that these very human tragedies are directly linked to rich countries’ climate-change denialism and disregard for human rights. The irony of the climatechange conference COP22 that was staged in Africa under the cloud of a Donald Trump ascendency should not be overlooked.
The world is a perilous place for the meek and vulnerable, and more often than not it is the women and girls around us who are voiceless when their rights are being violated.
Mariah, 16, dreams of getting a degree and finding a good job. But the death of her parents set her life on a perilous trajectory. She was forced to marry a taxi driver to provide sustenance for her siblings.
Until the drought ends and the economy improves and people are able to determine their own destinies, there will be more Nokuthulas and more Mariahs.