In Uganda labor export is one of the government’s policies to address youth unemployment. In2018, it was reported that there are 96 labor export companies licensed by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. On June 17, 2017, a year earlier, the Ugandan police listed 49 “licensed private recruitment companies as of 10th May 2017”.
The increase in labor export licenses tells the story of the increase of migrant workers leaving Uganda legally. Unfortunately, there have been reports of killing, poisoning, sexual abuse and women who are forced to have sex with animals. Last year, 48 Ugandans on labor export committed suicide abroad. To consider taking one’s own life as a way to free one’s soul and body from suffering, is unequivocal evidence that the conditions were extreme for the victims. “In the last year alone , there have been reports of the violent deaths of at least 10 Ugandan women in Gulf countries at the hands of their employers or relatives of their employers. Charges are hardly brought against the suspected perpetrators of injustice.” (See, Interpol warns Ugandan migrant workers). Ugandans recruited for labor abroad are sent to the Middle East including the Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
"Enough with unchecked Labor Expert Policy"
From November 18-24, 2018 in Uganda’s Capital City Kampala, Africa Faith & Justice Network held Catholic Social Teaching, social analysis and advocacy training for about 35 Catholic nuns, members of the Association of Religious in Uganda. Ahead of the gathering, and as part of AFJN’s policy of having advocacy action plan by workshop participants to engage the stakeholders in order to find a solution to a given local problem they wish to solve, asked the sisters in Uganda to come with what they wanted to tackle. The sisters identified Human Trafficking.
Following the training, the nuns took their message to several Ugandan ministries: the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Gender, Labour and Social Development and the Ugandan Human Rights Commission (UHRC). The sisters called on the government to take a very hard look at the legal export of labor abroad because it has become a lucrative and legal human trafficking scheme.
In a Press briefing after meeting with government officials the nuns said that “It [human trafficking] has continued to expose our sisters and brothers to untold torture, sexual abuse and slavery. Some of our daughters are trafficked abroad and forced to have sex with animals, while others are killed for organ transplant”
On December 3rd, after meeting with the nuns, the Ugandan Speaker Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, said that “Last year, we had stopped the government from allowing what they call domestic workers to go out. We thought we can allow those who want jobs as drivers and bankers,” and “Unfortunately, a number of people in government own labor export companies and I am told it is very lucrative so they continued.” Referring to the nuns as agents of change, The Speaker of Parliament pledged to reach out to the sisters through their association to listen to this and other advocacy concerns they have.
Ugandan Government Quick Reaction to Catholic Nuns’ Anti-Trafficking Message
As result of the nuns’ advocacy against unchecked Uganda’s labor export, the Minister of Gender, Labor and Social Development organized a review of the policy. He invited two of them to take part in the review of the policy which took place on December 11 – 12, 2018.
In the meantime, the nuns have taken the issue of human trafficking to their faith communities, parents, institutions of education and the nation using the media, conferences and word of mouth. Also, it is worth mentioning the presence at the gathering in Kampala of four Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur respectively from their provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Zimbabwe-South Africa and Nigeria. It is the vision of women religious to work hard to protect human dignity and trafficking which affect mostly women.
See the original text Labor Export or Human Trafficking: Tackling the Labor Laws in Uganda