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Kenyan Sophie Otiende Awarded Global Recognition for Efforts Against Human Trafficking

Every year the US Department of State produces a Trafficking in Persons Report that asses the efforts done by governments around the world in combating human trafficking.

Together with this report, the Department of State honors individuals who have distinguished themselves in the service towards this goal.

For the first time ever, Sophie Otiende has in 2020 been honored as a recipient of the Trafficking in Persons Report Hero award as the first Kenyan. Sophie calls herself a feminist, poet, teacher, and survivor of human trafficking.

She was recognized for her leadership role in the development of victim assistance infrastructure, resources, and practices in Kenya to ensure human trafficking survivors receive the best possible care and her unwavering efforts to raise awareness.

Speaking on behalf of this year’s TIP Report Heroes, Otiende urged global citizens to advocate for a more equal world that doesn’t allow slavery of any kind to exist.

Otiende who was once a victim of human trafficking says that the experience helped her in choosing to stand up for other such victims. “It took me 15 years from when I experienced trafficking personally to when I could properly define and name the crime,” she said.

“This award is in recognition of the work that I have done with Awareness Against Human Trafficking, which is an organization in Kenya that focuses exclusively on human trafficking. The work that grassroots organizations do to eradicate human trafficking should not be underestimated,” she said.

While serving survivors of trafficking has been her first priority, she has also led the development of several manuals for training vulnerable people on this vice. She said that it is not enough for stakeholders like the police to understand the issue, but also for survivors themselves. This is based on her own experience which she expressed in her acceptance speech

“I know being able to name the crime is empowering and for someone like me; it gave me language and tools to not only complete my healing process but also begin to fight for other survivors.”

She is currently a board member and survivor advisor at Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) that has assisted more than 400 victims of human trafficking in the more than 10 years she has been in the field, In her role as advisor, she continues to provide critical support and guidance to HAART’s victims’ assistance program.

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