Kenya (MNN) — Efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 have closed public spaces around the world. However, closing markets in Kenya has seen unintended and dark consequences; families are selling their daughters into human trafficking and forced marriages.
According to Ed Weaver of Spoken Worldwide, many Kenyan locals are farmers and herdsmen. When markets close, they can’t sell livestock. When they can’t sell livestock, they have to find a different source of income.
So, in the face of starvation, they turn to a practice ingrained in Kenyan culture. They turn to forced marriage. They turn to human trafficking.
In 2016, over 15 million people were victims of forced marriage under the larger umbrella of human trafficking. Sometimes, those victims come out of situations like this: families forced to make unthinkable decisions in the face of devastating poverty and starvation.
Kenyan culture normalizes marriages for money, and even families of believers struggle in the face of tradition and poverty. Although some organizations do work to spread awareness and push back, this new wave of forced marriages has largely flown under the radar.
“We’re going to speak up, we’re going to announce this, we’re going to let people know that this is going on,” Weaver says. “But we can’t just talk about it… we’ve got to begin to say, ‘Look, how do we help these cultures move from this as the cultural norm that says this is absolutely okay.”
But what should organizations like Spoken Worldwide tell these families? Weaver suggests three things they need to know.
1. There are other options
These families are selling their daughters out of any kind of vindictiveness; they legitimately see no other way out. That’s where others can step in and provide answers.
“There’s got to be ways to help them see ways to earn additional income.. aside from what their normal income is, ways to think about saving money and to be able to set aside in order to avoid tragedies like this,” Weaver says.
Admittedly, that’s easier said than done – Weaver admits that not every culture has the same money-saving potential as many Western cultures do – but even so, a little education could go a long way. Connecting desperate families with organizations who can help with aid and stewardship could make all the difference.
2. God loves families
God cares about the family unit. Weaver says some people don’t full understand God’s role in designing the family, and because of this, they struggle to understand the implications of selling their own children. God can “accomplish great tasks through the family,” and helping promote unity even during desperation could go a long way in fighting this new strain of human trafficking.
3. There is hope in Him
Finally, one of the most important lessons anyone can learn is God’s role as Provider and Protector.
“God in His grace and mercy can actually cover this and can give people the insight and the wisdom as to how to avoid this and how to hold the family together.”
Representative header photo courtesy of Unsplash.