If Silence Was to Speak: Unveiling the Hidden Wounds of Trafficking of Girls in Africa

Project Director: Sr Leonida Katunge

Sr Leonida is a theologian, lawyer, grassroots organizer, and Director of Programs for the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network. As a lawyer, she has been in the fore in the fight for the rights of women and children, especially in securing the inheritance of widows from family members, fighting against sexual exploitation, domestic violence and rape. The new frontiers of her fight have now expanded because of the sad realities facing many young girls in East Africa and other parts of Africa that worsened with the advent of COVID-19 pandemic. When the World Cup was awarded to Qatar, the country and other neighboring countries in the Middle East opened itself to welcoming many workers from Africa and Asia. Many girls from East Africa were lured by criminal gangs and sex traffickers to many countries in the Middle East. The main route for this trafficking rings is Kenya (https://enactafrica.org/enact-observer/east-african-human-trafficking-rings-expand-their-operations)

This project is inspired by the message of Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti where he says that “we cannot be indifferent to suffering; we cannot allow anyone to go through life as an outcast” (FT, 68). Sadly, many of these trafficked girls return to East Africa as outcast. Many of them are roaming the streets in the Middle East as outcast. This latest aspect of this sad reality of the sexual exploitation and trafficking of African girls is only a continuation of a terrible pattern of violation of African girls that was prevalent in the 80’s and 90’s with the trafficking of African girls and their sexual enslavement in many European countries. In the many wars in Africa particularly in Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Northern Uganda and Central African Republic, and the asymmetrical warfare in the African Sahel, many young girls have been forced into marriages to warlords, raped, killed, and discarded. We also have the cases of young girls who are brought from the rural areas to work as domestic servants in the big cities like Nairobi and Mombasa who end up being sexually abused and violated by their masters or mistresses.

Challenged by these sad realities, Sr Leonida and her team of nuns and social workers, lawyers, educationists and psychologists who work with her are committed to fighting for these girls, helping to rehabilitate them, heal their hidden wounds, teach them new skills for re-entry into society, and thus restore their dignity and humanity. It is also a fight that her team is waging against powerful interest groups and criminal networks who will do any and everything to evade the law and to harm those who are working by night and day to dismantle this criminal gang; expose their nefarious activities and conscientize African communities, countries, religious and political leaders on the need to embrace this fight as the most important fight of our times. Unless we stop the abuse and violation of our young people in Africa, there is no future for the continent. We will distinguish ourselves as a special force that uses the word of God, Magisterium and Social teachings of the Church to establish a safer environment and a unified front against trafficking of the girl child.

This will be achieved through:

Production of a Documentary

The documentary will raise awareness and advocate against the trafficking of girls. It will also be a  powerful way to shed light on this important issue in the Church and the wider society.

 It will have four chapters:

  • Introduction- Human trafficking, forms, focus on young women
  • Hearing of the survivors Stories and Creating safe space for them- Security in all its form
  • Trauma healing – spiritual, emotional, social, psychological and intellectual
  • Empowerment – Skills training in different areas
  • Conclusion

2: Prevention and Outreach

For this to happen we will

  • Develop and implement a program of therapies to heal the scars and trauma that these young girls and families are suffering and employ the services of professionals like psychologists, social workers, teachers, and lawyers.
  • Reintegrate   the rescued girls into their communities.
  • Organize awareness-raising events in schools, youth clubs, and community centers to educate young people about the risks of human trafficking.
  • Launch social media campaigns highlighting stories of resilience and showcasing success stories of those who escaped trafficking situations.
  • Implement mentorship programs pairing vulnerable youth with positive role models and mentors who can provide guidance and support.

3. Ongoing Support

  • Provision of  ongoing support for these girls through skills training and income generating ventures
  •  Ongoing support for the families and some of the children born through some of these painful relationships
  •  Continued mentorship programs for them, emotional and spiritual accompaniment in their transition to some normal life.

This initiative is a project of PACTPAN’s Unit on Women and Gender  and is carried out with the support of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Mombasa which has been engaged in rescuing the trafficked young women at the coastal part of the country.


Sr Caroline Mbonu

Sr Nkechi Iwuoha

Angelo Izama

Fr Stan Chu Ilo

Sr Josee Ngalula

Sr Angelique Namaika

Sr Rosemary Nyirumbe

Sr, Elizabeth Nduku.

Bishop Hiiboro Kusala  

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The Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network is committed to the idea that a better Church and society is possible in Africa. Their approach involves adopting new perspectives and working, innovatively, to effect positive change. By addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by the expansion of Christianity in Africa, they strive to make a meaningful impact on both the Church and African society.

Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network: A Better Church and Society is Possible in Africa

The Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) is a group of African scholars and pastoral agents who work in the Catholic tradition. They aim to create a better Church and society in Africa by engaging with the challenges and opportunities of Christian expansion in the continent. They do this by thinking differently and working collaboratively in new ways every day.

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