Giving a voice to victims of human trafficking: the Wamama Chronicles


GLO.ACT South Africa Wamama ChroniclesPretoria, South Africa - 13 December 2017 - According to UNODC's 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (TIP), 79 percent of all detected trafficking victims are women and children. To raise awareness about human trafficking, on World Day against TIP, marked on 30 July 2017, UNODC's theme was to "Act to Protect and Assist Trafficked Persons" while GLO.ACT helped mark EU Day against Trafficking on 17 October 2017 with an exhibition themed "Hear their voices. Act to Protect," featuring victim testimonies. As a continuation of the theme and to help give a voice to victims of TIP and to vulnerable migrants in South Africa, GLO.ACT supported the launch of the Wamama Chronicles on 8 December 2017 in Pretoria. Compiled by Fula Africa, a community-based organization working on TIP and the Smuggling of Migrants (SOM), particularly in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, the Wamama Chronicles are in fact a continuation of these global themes. "Hear their voices. Act to Protect" is a simple message but one with substance. It reminds us that we must listen to the voices of victims so that we can better prevent human trafficking, improve and strengthen our response to human trafficking and, most importantly, meet our obligations to victims.

'Wamama' is a Bantu word for women in the Tumbuka language, also called chiTumbuka. The Wamama Chronicles tell the stories of several women whom traffickers and smugglers have subjected to various forms of abuse while they were leaving Malawi for a better life in South Africa. The book is a stark reminder of the horrors trafficking victims and smuggled migrants experience at the hands of criminals. The hope is that it will serve as an awareness-raising tool, not only for the general public but also for law enforcement and other agencies with a statutory duty to protect vulnerable migrants. 

GLO.ACT South Africa Wamama ChroniclesAt the launch, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. John Jeffery said that "there should be an investigation of the traffickers who violated the rights of Malawian victims who told their stories in the Wamama Chronicles". He went on to say that "trafficking in persons is a transnational organized crime, so law enforcement's response needs to be transnational as well."

Also addressing the audience was Dr. Arno Schaefer, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation in South Africa. He said, "Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread and devastating human rights violations across the globe. No continent is spared. It is in every culture, every country." He went on to say that "women and girls, especially those travelling alone, face particularly high risks of certain forms of violence, including sexual violence by smugglers and criminal groups."

GLO.ACT South Africa Wamama ChroniclesMeanwhile, Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva, UNODC Regional Representative, used her speech to urge the audience to read the Wamama Chronicles. She explained, "These are real stories. They speak not only to the suffering that these victims have endured, but also to their courage and resilience." She went on to say, "Assistance and protection should be provided to the victims of trafficking in persons who have told their stories in the Wamama Chronicles".

Speaking about the Wamama Chronicles, Mr. Charles Ephraim Luhanga, Chairperson and co-founder of Fula Africa, said that "the secrecy and mystery that shrouds human trafficking and migrant smuggling in the region has led to gross abuses of human rights. GLO.ACT South Africa Wamama ChroniclesThese occur in plain sight and its perpetrators need to be arrested." He went on to say that "amongst other strategies, Fula Africa believes in breaking the silence. To us, standing up for and giving a voice to vulnerable migrant women is imperative. The Wamama Chronicles articulate intimate details of the experience and daily realities of a seemingly invisible migrant women en route to and in South Africa."

Attending the launch were representatives from the South African Inter-Sectorial Committee for Trafficking in Persons (NICTIP), the Malawi High Commission, the Malawi Consulate, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and civil society organizations. Also taking part were our donor, the European Union and GLO.ACT project implementing partners IOM and UNICEF.

The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT) is a four-year (2015-2019), €11 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The project is being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). GLO.ACT aims to provide assistance to governmental authorities and civil society organizations across 13 strategically selected countries: Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, South Africa, Ukraine. GLO.ACT works with the 13 countries to plan and implement strategic national counter-trafficking and counter smuggling efforts through a prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships approach. It supports the development of more effective responses to trafficking and smuggling, including providing assistance to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and direct support mechanisms.


For more information, please contact:

Banele Kunene, National Project Officer


Twitter: @glo_act