Note: I just saw that this article I wrote, reported from Dar es Salaam in January, had been published here on Global Post this last weekend.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Say “child trafficking,” and you’re likely to conjure up images of organized crime and international smuggling rings.
But sexual exploitation of children is often the result of more ordinary pressures: poverty, disease and social disintegration.
In Tanzania, where trafficking of poor girls from rural to urban areas is a serious problem, these are the complex social issues that anti-child trafficking workers are trying to disentangle.
Desperation and families broken by AIDS are often more dangerous enemies than gangsters, says one of the most prominent groups trying to end child exploitation in the country, the Kiota Women Health and Development Organization (Kiwohede).
“The rings of the pimps are not coordinated in this country,” said Justa Mwaituka, Kiwohede’s executive director. That means individual trafficking rackets are relatively easy to break up. The underlying causes, however, appear harder to root out.
Consider Fatuma’s story. A slight Tanzanian girl who looks much younger than her 16 years, Fatuma sat on a battered wooden chair wearing a T-shirt and skirt in a Kiwohede office in Dar es Salaam this January. Through an interpreter, she told her tale. Continue reading