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Danger online as traffickers target helpless children

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International organisations have raised a red flag over the spike in online human trafficking and child exploitation as people spend more time at home.

With Covid-19 restrictions and more children spending more time online, human traffickers are using the opportunity to recruit, groom and exploit children and lure adults feeling the pinch of the emaciated economy as a result of the coronavirus.

The concern is even more real after a German was arrested on May 4 in Nairobi in the company of a 13-year-old boy alleged to have been trafficked from Nyalenda in Kisumu.

Thomas Scheller, 71, who is in Kenya illegally, beat all the travel restrictions to travel from Kwale to Kisumu and back to Nairobi.

The boy — one of his victims — was defiled between April 30 and May 4. It took the combined efforts and intelligence of Interpol and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to nab the alleged trafficker classified as a serial offender. Scheller faces six counts of trafficking in persons, child pornography and defilement of five boys aged between 10 and 13.

Local and international organisations attribute the surge in online exploitation of children to the interruption of their physical learning and a change in their daily lives due to confinement affecting many parts of the world.United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Regional Advisor Rachel Harvey estimates that a third of internet users are children, with internet usage increasing by half, following the stay-home orders adopted by most countries to help contain the spread of Covid-19.

Whereas the increase is positive for continuity of education and social life, Harvey warns that it has put children at risk of online sexual exploitation.

“Before Covid-19, it was estimated that there were 750,000 people looking to connect with children for sexual purposes online at any one time. Opportunity and triggers for offending created by containment are likely to have pushed up that number, as well as demand for child sexual abuse materials,” Harvey says.

With limited physical interaction, global trends further single out increased and growing demand for child abuse material. This has given traffickers opportunities to devise new avenues of animating the ‘lucrative’ business of sex tourism by leveraging on the online space to prey on susceptible and unwitting users.

Lawrence Okoth, Internet Crimes against Children Investigator, confirms the nerve-racking trend in Kenya, with the unit based in Nairobi receiving about 300 cases per month of child abuse material and messages meant to lure and recruit victims. “The numbers are quite high and many more actually are not being reported,” Okoth says.

The traffickers are tactical in their approach, hence the big and growing number of victims. Okoth says traffickers stalk their victims. First, they identify their vulnerabilities and then offer a shoulder to lean on and camouflaging as ‘good friends’ with ‘common interests’ such that sharing of nudes becomes easy.Inadvertently, victims find themselves entangled in a compromising and perilous situation.

“Traffickers build confidence with their victims online by sharing conversations that lead to connection and consequently detach their victims from their parents/guardians.

This connection paves way for physical connection offline. With the new-found ‘friendship’ as a stepping stone to invade the victim’s life, traffickers manipulate their victims and whenever their missions are not accomplished, the shared nudes and erotic videos become weapons of blackmail used to force them to comply with any sort of demands, which also include substance abuse.

“In most cases, the traffickers order the victim to recruit other students or their friends and with time, the chain grows and the number of victims multiplies,” Okoth says.

It has further been discovered that traffickers employ other tactics of observing current trends and creating links with names that children identify and relate with indubitably. “We have come across groups such as Class Eight Revision, KCPE 2020 Class and other names that children easily join without questioning their genuineness,” he says.

The bigger concern, Okoth says, is that children and youth are being recruited and exposed online without the knowledge of their custodians. Valiant Richey, Special Representative for Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), describes the scale as unimaginable and growing, with “traffickers recruiting children through many online venues, including social media, game platforms, and chat rooms. They will typically befriend the children, grooming them for sexual activity and then gradually exploit them in various ways.”

In Kenya, detectives have identified different locations in slums in Nairobi and Mombasa where traffickers congregate relatives (mostly children) in sneaky rooms and entice them into sex orgies for purposes of live streaming.

[The writer is a fellow of the 2020 Resilience Fund of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime]

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Business

Why we built and turned our house into a resort

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When architect Dorothy Abonyo’s husband, architect Erastus Abonyo, received a call that the beach plot they had been looking for had been found in Sakwa, Siaya, they were elated.

The land had been standing idle for many years and snubbed by potential buyers because of the many bushes around it, but they saw the potential in it. “When my husband asked us (his family) what we thought about the piece of land, and suggested how we could use it, we were sold out. We loved the scenery and the fact that it was on the shores of Lake Victoria,” narrates Dorothy.

With the go ahead from his family, the land was bought in 2016 and they began clearing the bushes and fixing the road to the land. In 2017, the family comprising of four, all architects, began the process of designing and building their dream house on the land.

“I am an architect with my own practice, Tekto consult, my husband and our first- born child are architects. Our second born is studying interior design and architecture abroad. The house was designed by our first born, Teddy Abonyo, who was then a final year student,” says Dorothy, who has been practicing architecture for about 30 years.

Shared responsibility

To them, building the house was a small project that they felt their son could handle. Dorothy came in to strengthen the design and add a few details and her husband did a lot of work in the initial stages, such as fencing and setting up structures where people could sleep in. Dorothy, who became the senior architect to the project, opted to stay and oversee the process of building the home.

“It was frustrating supervising the project while living in Nairobi where I work. Every time I came to check on the progress of the project, I would find workers have messed things up, which meant we had to start all over again. So I decided to stay and oversee the project by myself and when I took a break, I would close the entire site until I came back,” she narrates.

Low business as a result of the 201 7 elections that year also allowed Dorothy extra time to focus on the project. And in 2018, the three-bedroom house was completed. It was constructed with as much natural materials as they could find in the area.

For instance, the pebbles they used on the exteriors of the house were mostly picked from their land while the rest were harvested from their neighbour’s land. Nyanza being a relatively hot place, the house was designed with thick walls that shield the interior from heat penetration. “When you have thin walls, heat goes in easily. We used cladding, which is attaching a layer of stones outside of a house to safeguard it from the weather effects. With the two thick walls, it will take a long time for the heat to penetrate,” Dorothy explains.

The house was meant to be their retirement home, but they changed their mind after realising that the beauty and the set up spoke more and decided to share it with the public.

“We gave it a second thought and opted not to just have this place to ourselves as our boys were now old. Our second born is out of the country, he may or may not come back and is too old to even want to live with us. The last born too is on his way out meaning that it’s just me and my husband, so we decided to make it a holiday home,” she shares.

Getting into hospitality

That’s how their retirement home became a beautiful resort. Having come from the construction industry, the family knew nothing in hospitality except what they had experienced during their travels. “We have also travelled a bit and in particular, my trip in two cruises one at west Mediterranean cruise with the royal Caribbean for seven days in water really made me learn a bit on hospitality. Though we were over 5,000 guests, the staff took care of us as if we were five guests and there was no one time that we went to the restaurant and missed food. Their service, unlike other hotels I had been to, was superb,” she recalls.

Having unanimously decided that their home would be turned into a resort, the family came together to name it. Dorothy’s choice, Pi Kidi, won. Pi means water in the Luo, while Kidi meant the stones. The area too was green and lush, so it also functions as a garden resort.

“Not many people were comfortable with the fact that you can share your home with strangers, but it’s a new trend, they have eventually gotten used to it. The boys then came up with the idea of putting up tents saying that their age mates would fancy that. So we set up a campsite that’s pretty formal, but we are also thinking of opening up the bush for people who are more adventurous and just want to camp by the water or in the bush,” Dorothy adds.

By PD.co.ke

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UoN masters degree finalist who sells eggs appeals for a job

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A jobless graduate who’s finalising his masters degree is appealing for well-wishers to give him a job. Dennis Obiri Ogola from Ndumbuini in Kabete sells boiled eggs despite having a diploma, degree and is set to complete his master’s programme in early 2021.

“I’m currently doing my masters and I’m in my last semester of the coursework. I have a diploma in Procurement and Supply Chain Management from the Kenya Institute of Management and a Bachelor of Commerce degree (Procurement and Supply Chain Management option) from the University of Nairobi,” says Dennis.

Humble background, hawking eggs, rent arrears

The soft-spoken Dennis hails from a humble background and is the firstborn in a family of six children. Wellwishers enabled him to pursue his studies and he dreams of helping his younger siblings get a good education.

“I was helped by a children’s home to complete my primary school education. I joined high school in the same children’s home and because of my good manners, they offered to further my education. I did my diploma and after scoring a second class (upper division) in my degree, I got sponsors for the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme at UoN,” he says.

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Dennis got into the eggs business after another well-wisher was touched by his plight and gave him the startup capital even though the proceeds scarcely meets his needs. On a good day, he makes Sh300 profit which he reinvests in the business, leaving him with peanuts to live off.

“I have some rent arrears but I spoke to the landlord and he’s understanding- but at the end of the day, he wants money.” Photo: Courtesy.

 “After hearing of my situation, an empathetic Human Resource practitioner in a financial institution gave me capital to start this business selling eggs and smokies. In a day, I sell a tray of boiled eggs at Sh600 (Sh20 per egg), making a Sh300 profit. I spend Sh300 on eggs for the next day and use some of the remaining money buy saviets, onions and tomatoes for kachumbari , wrapping papers and tomato sauce. The remainder of the money cannot pay my rent. I have some rent arrears but I spoke to the landlord and he’s understanding- but at the end of the day, he wants money,” he says.

“The far I’ve reached, it’s taken a lot of patience and perseverance. I would like to appeal to anyone with a job to offer me the opportunity. I dream of at least helping my siblings,” concludes Dennis, who has over ten certificates.

You can reach Dennis on 0705446010.

by SDE

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Business

Introducing Baba Mboga

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If you told Sydney Muhando last year that he would be running a fresh produce grocery city business, he definitely would not have agreed.

The online comedian and drama teacher who is also a video editor was on stage with his trainees in a competition when the first case of Covid-19 was announced in the country.

This was followed by indefinite closure of schools. For him, he knew it would only take a few days before schools reopen. It has now taken six months for candidates to resume their studies.

In the same period, Mr Muhando has grown his online business, Baba Mboga Deliveries, a name he says he chose because of its uniqueness.

Every morning, he wakes up at dawn to go to Wangige Market, one of the largest markets in Kiambu County where he gets assorted fruits and vegetables.

He then sorts them according to what has been ordered and packages them in bags ready to deliver to his customers doorsteps.

Social media pages

Most of the time, people especially in urban residential areas purchase their vegetables and other fresh products from local shops just near their homes commonly known as ‘Mama Mboga’.

“I stayed for two months without a job and life became difficult and  I knew I could not sustain myself for long. My friend had been sending me to the market to get grocery for him at a fee and that is how I identified the gap,”  he says.

With a capital of Sh800 and running short of time, the 28-year-old started purchasing more food from the market, posting them on his social media pages to let his friends know about it. He then delivers them to his customers.

He explains that being a city, many residents hardly get time to go to the market, especially to get traditional or indigenous vegetables. There is also a growing culture for online shopping among Nairobi residents.

“In a city like Nairobi, most people are busy, so I took advantage of that to serve them in their own houses. Many people, were also scared of going to crowded market places fearing that they would contract the disease,”  he says.

Free delivery

For months, Mr Muhando has garnered a huge following both on Facebook and Instagram.

But it is not that easy to open and run social media pages for a full-time online business. Most businesses find it difficult to produce content to market their products.

Luckily, for Mr Muhando who is an online comedian, anything to do with technology is not so hard for him. It only took an hour to create and set up his Facebook account.

“It takes witty captions and for you to have a good camera. It is also important to post the prices. Without seeing the prices, the customers will not be interested in the products, especially if it’s a small business,”  he adds.

He additionally posts the menu for his vegetables, with various discounts to attract customers including free delivery for those purchasing goods worth more than Sh1,000.

To have a variety and almost everything one needs in their kitchen, Baba Mboga apart from greens and fruits also sells spices such as ginger, garlic and onions, with starches such as sweet potatoes and arrowroots as well as eggs.

Invest in branding 

To grow his business, Mr Muhando says it was important to invest in branding for his audience to take it seriously.

He targets families and the busy clientele who could be at work or travelling. On a good day, he makes up to Sh2,000 after delivery.

In his recent innovation, as it is by some business owners who want to add value to their products, he has also introduced the bachelors package, where the traditional vegetables, which usually take time to be made are picked and sorted for easy preparation.

He also does extra services including chopping onions, tomatoes and preparing fruits or vegetables depending on the customer’s orders. Afterwards, he packs them in a branded reusable shopping bag.

As his business expands, Mr Muhando has sought partners who work with him, one, who is in charge of transport and deliveries while another is in charge of a walk-in store he is putting up.

Major challenge 

His major challenge is finding the balance between the cost he uses to purchase the vegetables and delivering them at the customer’s doorstep.

“Since my customers are spread all over, the main issue is balancing the delivery that it does not eat into  my  profits. Competition is also high since more people are now tapping into this business so it requires a lot of improvement and incentives for the customers,”  he says.

Mr Muhando plans to expand his business and even have a walk in store, such as the popular Zucchini, which will in turn create employment for more people as his contribution to the country’s economy.

His advises to young people who unfortunately lost their jobs during the pandemic, “look for other jobs or set up your own businesses,  however small”.

“Keep trying, remember quality service is your biggest advertising,” says Mr Muhando.

by nation.africa

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