Notes to broadcasters
According to the U.S. “2022 Trafficking in Persons Report,” produced in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration, or IOM, Mali is ranked as one of the countries with a high incidence of human trafficking. Starting in 2020, the country was ranked highly for three consecutive years.
According to the International Organization for Migration, human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, and receipt of a person by means of threat. It may involve the use of force or other forms of coercion such as abduction, fraud, deception, or abuse of authority or of a position of vulnerability. Offering or paying benefits can also be a means of trafficking in persons, with the aim of receiving consent for the purpose of exploitation.
The most commonly reported forms of trafficking in Mali are for forced child labour in domestic activities or on mining sites. This script focuses on trafficking for forced prostitution.
In terms of trafficking, Mali is a country of origin, transit and destination. In other words, some people who are trafficked originate in Mali, while others transit through the country or come from elsewhere to settle there. The geographical location of the country, which borders several countries in West and North Africa, may explain the massive influx of trafficking. In Mali, these practices affect almost all regions. However, the regions most affected are Segou, Mopti, Gao, Kidal, Ménaka, Sikasso, and Kayes.
In this radio script, we will speak with four resource persons: a survivor of trafficking, a member of the National Coordination Committee for the Fight against Human Trafficking and Related Practices, a member of the National Catholic Child Bureau, and a representative of the International Organization for Migration. They will provide us with a better understanding of this problem in Mali.
To produce a similar program on human trafficking, you can use this script as a guide.
If you are interested in creating programs on human trafficking, you could talk to a survivor of trafficking, a government department that deals with trafficking issues, an officer of the International Organization for Migration, and a member of a trafficking survivors’ advocacy group.
For example, you could ask them the following questions:
- What is human trafficking?
- How is it manifest in this area?
- What means are available to fight it?
Estimated duration of the radio script with music, intro, and extro: 20 minutes
Good morning, dear listeners. Today, we are going to talk to you about human trafficking for sexual exploitation in Mali.
Located in West Africa, Mali also borders countries in North Africa. This situation facilitates human trafficking in various ways. These are high migration areas where borders are not well controlled. People enter, leave, and cross the country easily. This makes Mali a country of origin, transit, and a destination for trafficked persons.
Several factors favour trafficking in Mali: poverty, illiteracy, and the precarious situation of families, especially women and children. The precarious situation of families might be linked to poverty, their ability to look after themselves, whether or not they can take charge of their children’s education, and their ability to educate their daughters themselves without placing them in the care of others. Other factors contributing to trafficking include the length and porosity of the country’s borders, socio-cultural constraints such as lack of access to information and basic social services, weak political will, and the extent of the informal economy.
To combat trafficking, Mali has ratified many agreements, conventions, and treaties. In 2012, Bill No. 2012-023, on trafficking in persons, was adopted. It imposes a five to twenty-year prison term, depending on the nature of the trafficking.
To talk about this, we will interview Pascal Reyntjens, a representative of the International Organization for Migration in Mali and Coulibaly Amanda Amedegnato, President of the National Catholic Child Bureau. We were also able to invite a survivor of trafficking to testify on condition of anonymity. We will refer to her as BM. We received a report from the National Coordination Committee for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons and Related Practices. A person named AK will read parts of this government report.
Listeners, let’s start with Miss BM. Can you tell us how you got into this situation?
It all started when my mother told me about some acquaintances of hers who wanted to help our family out of the difficult economic situation we were going through. She promised people in our community that she would help them succeed in their lives abroad. She gained my mother’s trust and my mother immediately entrusted me to her so that I could help our family. I accepted the proposal. One day she took me to the capital of Nigeria, Lagos, and entrusted me to an older man. He told me that once we got where we were going, we could work for a while and start earning a living. This seemed strange to me. But he reassured me, saying that was not lying.
Four of my brothers are dead, and I have only one brother left. I thought to myself that if God kept us alive, it must be because he wants us to contribute something to the family. And if I am to be the one to initiate this walk towards hope, I will do it willingly.
The gentleman I mentioned is not the one who brought us here. And I wasn’t the only one. There were other girls. He entrusted us to another lady with whom we travelled. When we arrived in Cotonou, Benin, I asked the lady where we were going. She told me to stay calm and to trust her. In Cotonou, the lady asked us to take an oath, because she feared that we would run away with her money. So we swore to work for her and to give her all our money to repay the expenses she incurred on our behalf. We spent ten days traveling before arriving in Mali.
Once you arrived in Mali, what happened?
The day after our arrival, during the night, the lady gave us short skirts to wear. Then she told us to introduce ourselves to some young boys and say “work 2000 FCFA.” We didn’t know what that meant because we didn’t understand the French language. I didn’t know that it meant sleeping with these men.
I told her that I couldn’t do this job. But she told me that if I didn’t do it, I would die. That’s when I realized that I had put myself in a very difficult situation. I was thinking about all the risks of sexually transmitted diseases that I was incurring for 2,000 CFAF. I thought that if I did this job, I wouldn’t be able to have children even if I got married afterwards. But we were forced to do this work and the lady handled all our money. Even if one of us was sick, she would tell her to go to hell, and that the work must go on. She threatened us with death if we ever tried to escape. She told us that we owed her 1,500,000 FCFA before we could start working for ourselves. She reminded us of the oath we took. I had never seen anything so disgusting. I preferred death to such a life.
How did you get out of that situation?
During my night shift, I met some young Nigerians who were living in Mali, and I explained the situation to them. That’s how they helped me to escape. They took me to the police, who placed me in the care of a lady for a few days because we were a bit far from Bamako, the Malian capital. I also experienced hardship there, because I didn’t have enough to both eat and take medicine, so I sometimes took medicine without eating. After a few days, I was taken to Bamako and I was warmly welcomed by the International Organization for Migration.
What did you learn from this experience?
You should never follow someone because they say they can help you. Nobody can fool me with such promises again. It is always better to stay at home. I don’t want to go back to Nigeria anymore because of everything that has happened to me. I want to start my life again in Mali or somewhere else. I can’t go back to my family. Because of money, my mother placed me in this situation. Even if I go back to Nigeria, I might go to my aunt and not to my parents.
Thank you very much for sharing your difficult story with us.
Ms. Coulibaly Amanda Amedegnato, you are the President of the National Catholic Child Bureau, or BNCE. What can you tell us about this organization?
BNCE is an organization that promotes and protects the rights of child survivors of human trafficking. It is composed of organizations that serve children.
What are your objectives?
Our organization aims to support young people who have experienced human trafficking, to promote their dignity and their rights. We take care of the young people and children we welcome. We then teach them skills to help them integrate back into society socially and academically. Within the framework of this mission, we collaborate with the Traditional Community Network, religious leaders, and important people in the area where the parents and children live. These people mediate between the children and their families in order to facilitate their return within a peaceful atmosphere. We help those who have learned the trades of their choice with us to practice them once they return home.
Tell us about your experience with survivors of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Very often we receive survivors in a very fragile state. They suffer from many illnesses, including infectious diseases. Some have experienced trauma, but also physical injuries. When we talk to them, we realize that some of them are in these situations because of their relatives. These are young girls who are very often between 15 and 20 years old or more. When we receive them, the first thing we do is provide them with medical care to stabilize their health. The length of the treatment varies from one girl to another depending on the seriousness of the situation. Then we provide them with psychological care, which also takes time.
Now we will talk to Mr. Pascal Reyntjens, representative of the International Organization for Migration in Mali. Tell us, what is human trafficking?
As defined by law, human trafficking is a complex offense that involves a number of elements, including recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving a person. This is done in a way that makes it easier to obtain the person’s consent—and by using threats, force, violence, kidnapping, fraud, deception, and abuse of authority or a situation of vulnerability. Human trafficking can also be defined as offering payments or other benefits to obtain the consent of a person with authority over another person for the purpose of exploitation.
Is trafficking a reality in Mali, and if so, what are the statistics on trafficking in Mali?
In Mali, human trafficking is a reality and the number of cases is quite significant. From January 2017 to October 2022, IOM was able to assist 1,379 trafficking survivors, of which 1,310 were women and only 69 were men. The practice affects women much more than men. Other organizations including state services also assist survivors. Unfortunately, there is no study that adds up the different figures to give a realistic picture of the number of cases nationally. So each organization has its own figures.
What are the factors that encourage this practice in Mali?
Poverty affects more than 40% of the population, especially in the rural areas. Population growth is high. Lack of jobs and sources of income in the rural areas compel many people to migrate in search of work. This leaves many of them in a vulnerable position. Limited employment and housing opportunities force many to explore coping strategies. Those who cannot find a stable job engage in menial jobs such as selling clothes, dolls, or repairing objects in the informal sector. This exposes them to all forms of abuse, and in some cases, to trafficking. Socio-cultural constraints such as lack of access to information and basic social services, weak political will, the vastness and porosity of borders, illiteracy, and the large number of vulnerable groups—women and children—are other causes of human trafficking in Mali.
What do we know about women who experience human trafficking in Mali?
Sexual exploitation through forced prostitution concerns English-speaking women and girls from Nigeria and Ghana. They are often between 19 and 30 years old. They are usually recruited by influential women from the village where they live. They pay for the cost of transportation and the falsification of documents. Thus, these young women are forced into debt and are obliged to pay it off through prostitution once they arrive in Mali. Some of them stay in Mali and others are taken to Europe, and Mali is only a transit country for them. Those who remain in Mali are exploited in bars, on gold mining sites, and in regional capitals, including Bamako.
It should be noted that this is an international phenomenon. It affects all countries.
How can you recognize a person who is being trafficked?
To recognize a person who is being trafficked, a number of questions need to be asked. I will give you a partial list of the signs we regularly see in women who are objects of human trafficking.
You can ask if the person seems nervous, frightened, suspicious, and not very talkative; if they show signs of psychological, physical, or sexual abuse; and if they refuse to provide personal information. You can also ask if they have identification or travel documents, and if they live in their place of work or with their employer.
When you identify a person who is being trafficked, what should you do?
You can alert the authorities or representatives of the State such as the police. There are many organizations involved in this field. They have offices in almost every region. They welcome survivors and provide them with assistance in many ways.
What about the punishment of people who are responsible for human trafficking?
Nowadays, very few survivors want to file a complaint. They lack trust in the authorities and institutions because there is too much impunity, despite the existence of laws against trafficking. Even when they have the opportunity to report their exploitation, they often do not do so for fear of their traffickers or out of shame. They prefer to hide their grim past. Also, many survivors of human trafficking are too afraid to go to court against their traffickers. And when they are brought to court, many cases related to trafficking are dismissed. The other difficulty is that investigation services such as the police not familiar enough with the phenomenon.
What are the authorities doing to address this lack of trust?
They are cooperating more and more with NGOs on the ground, which are in constant contact with survivors. These organizations have been able to develop a climate of trust between themselves and survivors. They serve as intermediaries or facilitators between the authorities and human trafficking survivors. Some of them have the means to welcome survivors and care for them until they return home. But the problem is that Mali is currently facing a multidimensional crisis that includes terrorism and other problems. So trafficking is not a priority for the authorities at the moment.
Thank you, Pascal Reyntjens, for that explanation. We now turn to Mr. AK. What role does the state play in combating human trafficking?
For several years now, the government has been committed to the fight against human trafficking. To take further action nationally, the National Coordinating Committee for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons and Related Practices was established in 2011. Also, Bill 2012-023 on the fight against trafficking in persons and similar practices was adopted in 2012. It imposes a prison sentence ranging from 5 to 20 years, depending on the nature of the crime.
What activities is the government actually engaged in?
The government’s activities are based on 4 Ps: prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership. With regard to prevention, the government relies on the Committee to provide technical and/or financial support to a number of organization fighting against human trafficking. These groups organize training and awareness campaigns for vulnerable people and key actors in the fight against trafficking. They also donate They also donate basic foodstuffs and training materials. If they find survivors, these centres welcome them, take care of them, and help them return to their families or their professions through training. These organizations use a similar strategy to help protect survivors.
With regard to prosecution, the Brigade for the Repression of Migrant and Human Trafficking was established. Training judicial police officers and magistrates has helped to intensify this fight. For example, in 2020, the Brigade registered fifteen cases of trafficking prosecutions, compared to twelve in 2019. In addition to the organizations already mentioned, the government partners with regional and international organizations such as IOM and EUCAP SAHEL Mali.
How effective have these activities been so far?
Training and awareness-raising are beginning to bear fruit, even though human trafficking is on the rise in Mali. This increase is because of the organization of increasingly powerful trafficking networks, the use of new technologies, and the impact of Covid-19. As well, the insecurity that has caused part of the territory to escape state control has made progress on human trafficking more difficult. There is still a long way to go in this fight.
What do we need to do now?
We need to focus on prevention by increasing training and awareness campaigns for all relevant actors. These include the police, the gendarmerie, border police services, governmental actors, magistrates, child protection personnel, and civil society. Targeted warning systems must be put in place through community actors such as village chiefs and mayors. We also need to teach people to recognize signs of vulnerability and revitalize the justice system so that these crimes do not go unpunished.
Thank you to the various speakers who made this program possible. We note that human trafficking is not limited to Mali. But the country is strongly affected because it is located in a migratory zone. Survivors come from all over West Africa, but also from within the country. The situation is exacerbated by factors such as poverty and porous borders. The reasons why they fall into these traps are often economic. And the perpetrators are very often relatives or acquaintances who promise them lucrative work abroad. In the face of this powerful network, it is essential to create collaborations between international organizations, NGOs, and state services. But the efforts undertaken so far are not enough in view of the magnitude and seriousness of the problem.
If you or someone you know is being trafficked, call the following number for help (BROADCASTERS: add a local, regional, or national number).
With these words, we thank you, dear listeners, for your kind attention and hope to be with you soon for a new program.
Contributed by: Issa O. Togola, freelancer, Bamako, Mali.
Reviewed by: Mahamadoun Coulibaly, Secretary General of the Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH).
BM: A survivor of human trafficking interviewed on September 12, 2022.
AK: Representative of the National Coordination Committee for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons and Related Practices, interviewed in October 2022.
Coulibaly Amanda Amedegnato: President of the National Catholic Child Bureau, interviewed on November 02, 2022.
Pascal Reyntjens: Representative of the International Organization for Migration in Mali, interviewed on November 15, 2022.
U.S. State Department, 2022. Trafficking in Persons Report, 2022. https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/20221020-2022-TIP-Report.pdf
This resource was produced through the “HÉRÈ – Bien-être des femmes au Mali” initiative, which aims to improve the well-being of women and girls in terms of sexual and reproductive health and to strengthen the prevention of and response to gender-based violence in the regions of Sikasso, Ségou, Mopti, and the district of Bamako, Mali. The project is implemented by the HÉRÈ – MSI Mali Consortium, in partnership with Farm Radio International (FRI) and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) with funding from Global Affairs Canada.