The International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) in partnership with the National Association of Women Judges Uganda (NAWJ-U) and the International Association of Women Judges- Kenya Chapter (IAWJ-KC) is implementing a project to increase the effectiveness of prosecutions and reduce the prevalence of labor trafficking in Kenya and Uganda. The project is funded by the United State Department of State through a grant to the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. As part of this effort, the NAWJ-U and IAWJ-KC led inaugural virtual judicial trainings from September to November, 2021. The trainings were held live and included interactive exercises for participants; the training sessions were also recorded to allow absent participants to watch and complete the course at their own pace.
These trainings were designed to ensure that justice sector actors have a common understanding of the national and international trafficking in persons (TIP) legislation and its application, as well as the factual contexts of TIP at the local and regional level. In addition, the trainings focus on equipping justice sector actors with the knowledge and skills to identify possible TIP victims in cases that come before the courts in noncriminal contexts or in contexts in which trafficking victims are charged with criminal offenses (e.g., in labor disputes, deportation proceedings, or petty theft cases in which the defendant is acting under the control of another) so that they are able to recognize red flags of human trafficking. Ultimately, the trainings aim to promote the use of victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches at every stage of the criminal justice process.
In Kenya, 56 Judges and Magistrates participated in the trainings, which were facilitated by a rotating team of 14 IAWJ-KC trainers. As of now, 19 people have completed the training. Participants represented judicial districts across the country, including: Nairobi, Murang’a, Nyeri, Migori, Kisumu, Maua, Kabarnet, Wang’uru, Ngong, Eldoret, Nyamira, Wundanyl, Kandara, Kibera, Kakmega, Mpeketoni, Kericho, Busia, Mackakos, Kajido, Kithimani, Makueni, Makadara, Butere, Voi, Embu, Nyahururu, Narok, Bomet, Ogembo, and Molo.
Ms. Carolyn Marubu, a Counseling Psychologist, gave an expert presentation on trauma-informed care. Ms. Marubu spoke on the psychological impact of trauma and the way(s) in which trauma can affect witness testimony. Participants mentioned their appreciation for the discussion of “trauma bonding,” in which the victim may come to identify with the goals of the trafficker (“Stockholm syndrome”), and believed it gave them new insight as to why victims frequently would “clam up” and not testify clearly against their traffickers. They also commented that they now thought much of their training on how to evaluate witness demeanor (e.g., does the witness maintain eye contact, does s/he tell a coherent, sequential story) had failed to take into account the experience of trauma. They appreciated the opportunity Ms. Marubu afforded them to learn and integrate these ideas. Participants consistently referred to her presentation throughout the course, and several commented on its utility.
One Magistrate commented, “I think as judicial officers we need to have debriefing sessions after equally hearing these traumatizing cases.” Another added: “I have received a lot of crucial information and my eyes have been widely opened. Thank you to our facilitators, participants and our donors.”
In Uganda, 25 Judges and Magistrates participated in a training, which was facilitated by 10 NAWJ-U trainers; As of now, 6 people have completed the training. Participants represented judicial districts across the country, including: Arua, KumiNyowa and Amuru, Oyam, Kibooga, Yumbe, Masaka, Kotido, Soroti, Kabale, Iganga, Hoima, Nsangi, Moroto, Mbale, Makindye, Mubende, Gulu, Masindi, Mukono, Mbara / Sanga, Nabweru, Bugembe.
Ms. Agnes Igoye, Uganda’s Deputy National Coordinator for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and Training Manager at the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control Office, delivered a presentation on “Trauma- Informed Care and Trauma- Informed Systems.” Ms. Agnes spoke about the importance for all justice sector actors to understand trauma and how trauma affects victims’ responses to services and the criminal justice process. Participants appreciated the presentation by Agnes Igoye on the psychological impact of trauma and the way(s) in which trauma can affect witness testimony. She described a childhood experience of having been forced to work for the Lord’s Resistance Army, and how this experience has shaped her research interests and professional development; she is a powerful speaker, and we hope to include her in future trainings.
Following the training activities, IAWJ received positive feedback from participants. One participant from Uganda commented that “the concept of TIP, now I know that it happens daily within the country. Previously, I thought it was only cross border.” Another stated that they “appreciated the wide scope of the concept of human trafficking, victim care and handling plus the best practices shared by different stakeholders.”
In 2022, NAWJ-U and IAWJ-KC will organize several virtual and in-person multi-sector trainings for judges, prosecutors, police, service providers and border officers. These important capacity building activities all serve to strengthen the knowledge and skills of key stakeholders in implementing victim -centered investigations and adjudications.
Session I of the first judicial training session for Kenya held on 13th September, 2021
This article and the IAWJ project were funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.