There are approximately 105,000 people living in modern slavery in Zimbabwe. As reported over the past five years, Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls from Zimbabwean towns bordering South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia are subjected to forced labor, including domestic servitude, and sex trafficking in brothels catering to long-distance truck drivers on both sides of the borders. Zimbabwean men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in the country’s rural areas, as well as domestic servitude and sex trafficking in cities and surrounding towns.Ruvimbo was a child bride at 16 when she was forced to marry a man she had not chosen. Within the marriage she soon became pregnant and was subjected to abuse. Seeking a way out, Ruvimbo persuaded her father to let her continue her education and follow her dream to become a nurse. Then, at the age of 19, went to court with another girl who had been subjected to child marriage to fight for the rights of all girls in Zimbabwe.
Since the war broke out in Syria, child marriage rates have risen sharply. Before the war, child marriage did happen. But conflict has exacerbated many of the factors that push families into marrying their daughters off, such as insecurity, poverty and lack of education. In just three years from 2011 to 2014, child marriage rates increased almost threefold. Maisa is living in a refugee community in Lebanon. She receives support from Girls Not Brides member SB Overseas. SB Overseas runs education programmes to help young refugees get back into the school system. They also run educational support programmes for older children, awareness sessions and psychological support sessions for children and young people. They also teach women vocational skills so they can support themselves and their families, and distribute clothing and aid.
Faith was taken from her home country of Zimbabwe into South Africa in 2004. Like many young Zimbabwean women, she was trafficked through the false promise of employment. Other Zimbabwean women are tricked into slavery through promises of marriage and education, and some are simply abducted. Zimbabwean women are also forced into prostitution in the UK, the US and South East Asia, and some are trafficked internally from rural to urban areas for forced domestic labor. High levels of poverty and unemployment are factors in Zimbabwe’s trafficking problem, and the low status of women in Zimbabwean society perpetuates gender violence. The situation worsened after 2005, when the Zimbabwean government began Operation Murambatsvina (“Operation Clean-Up”), a campaign to forcibly clear slum areas. This displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and left an estimated 223,000 children vulnerable to trafficking. In South Africa, where Faith was still in slavery as she narrated her story, the number of trafficking victims remains unknown but the International Organization for Migration reports that trafficked women and children arrive from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia (trafficked through Zimbabwe), and that several major criminal groups in South Africa now traffic women: Bulgarian and Thai syndicates, the Russian and the Chinese Mafi, and African criminal organizations, mainly from West Africa.