A mother waits outside a kayamoo—a crudely-built hut used for prostitution in the interior—as her young daughter is being raped inside; afterwards the mother accepts payment from the perpetrator, who slips away into the darkness of night.
This act could be repeated several times a night and almost every night. Should a ‘John’ refuse to pay, the mother quickly makes a report to the police station. The ‘John’ is then arrested. While he’s in custody the mother then requests a settlement in exchange for dropping the allegation. With prosecution looming, the ‘John’ pays up.
It is believed that officers at the station are in cahoots with the woman and receive a cut of the money.
This is just one of the horrific stories told to members of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO) during their recent visit to Region 8 and according to its President Simona Broomes little girls in the area are being sold to the highest bidder almost every night.
In the end, the young girl referred to above—said to be about 14 years old—was eventually removed from the area by officers of the Child Care & Protection Agency (CCPA) following repeated complaints.
Sources at the CCPA confirmed to the Sunday Stabroek that the young girl is now in protective custody and an investigation is being carried out.
According to Broomes, with the recent spotlight on human trafficking the shop owners in mining areas involved in this practice are no longer recruiting girls from the coastland, which would set off alarm bells, but are targeting girls from nearby communities.
She said the mother mentioned above is not the only one involved in this dreadful act, and she called on the authorities to deal with these women condignly since they are effectively destroying their daughters.
She said the exploitation of young girls is the lifeblood of the kayamoo businesses.
“In the interior kayamoo business… if you don’t have young girls the truth about it is there will not be an attraction and that is why I am calling for all the support from the authorities because they would always recruit young girls,” Broomes told this newspaper.
She pointed out that people are aware that trafficking in drugs is illegal but they still run the risk of committing the crime because of the money to be garnered and it is the same when it comes to human trafficking.
“They… know if they have two young girls… how much money they would make for the night and so they will continue to do it until you send a strong message,” Broomes stressed.
According to Broomes, as night sets in young girls would be seen slinking into the bars where they would be plied with alcohol and “then they take a room and prostitute right there and… [the shop owners] give them a money and they gone back home by morning.”
She said that with this arrangement the shop owners feel safer because the girls won’t be found living at the shop.
The GWMO president said she witnessed two girls leaving one of the shops early in the morning. She said the girls sometimes would leave the school dorm and can be found in bars in the nights “and that for me is a
nightmare.” Two girls who were identified as 13 and 14 years old were seen in a bar drinking and around 5am the following day one was seen leaving the kayamoo.
“I am trying to come to grips with the whole reality. And that’s the reason why we advocate and we go out there because even if we write, even if we run, even if we chase after the authorities that action would result in a good talk and a good meeting,” she said noting that there is seldom any follow-up done on reports given.
Broomes said the organisation is now in the process of doing follow-up visits to areas they would have visited before and because of the numerous reports they would have received from those areas; especially Mahdia. Led by Marina Charles, who is now head of the organisation’s Trafficking Unit, members were involved in sensitizing residents about human trafficking and targeting minibus operators while posting up posters at various vantage points.
She said as soon as they entered Mahdia the complaints were coming so rapidly that “I couldn’t even take off my shoes when I entered the room because people were just there waiting for us.” While many gave reports about young girls being exploited some also had serious mining issues which they said are harming their businesses. One major complaint is them losing their excavators when they are unable to upkeep their payments.
Broomes admitted that last year she became frustrated following what she described as “attacks” by those in authority. As a result, the organisation took a backseat in the fight because it is a lonely fight and instead focused on some groundwork and allowed the authorities to carry on.
“We did that [took a back seat] we just had the one raid last January and there have been no charges. We have the girls from 2013 and no charge… and for me that is very heart rending,” Broomes said.
Broomes said the organisation first visited Mahdia in 2012 where it was found that girls as young as 12 years old were sexually active. On its return visit three years later “… the only difference now it is worse,” she said.
There are allegations that girls below the age of 12 are sexually active and those 12 and above are engaging in sexual acts with multiple partners simultaneously.
“We are going backwards…,” Broomes said.
Broomes recalled that when she was there in 2012 she observed something very disturbing: a mother with a young baby living and working in a kayamoo and when questioned, the woman said she had no choice as there was no one she could leave the baby with.
Fast forward three years later and Broomes found another woman with a baby in a kayamoo but she was unable to speak to her.
“There was so much out of order, so much of complaints, I said to the ladies you know what let’s leave in the morning…” Broomes said.
She said they also focused on acquiring a building to open a home for victims because one of the organisation’s biggest concerns was rescuing victims and not being able to house them. She said many of the young girls were being re-trafficked. She made it clear that the organisation is opening a home as opposed to a shelter.
“If one girl walks out of there, and has a better life then we did it. I am not targeting 50 or 20 or two, one because it is worth the while because it is a human being,” she said.
It is hoped that the home would be opened by next month and at the moment the rehabilitation of the building is being overseen by the Sisters of Mercy with whom the GWMO has partnered.
Broomes spoke about a victim whom she said was failed by the authorities and who eventually was returned to her parents by her aunt who said she received no assistance to take care of her as was promised.
Today, that young woman is an inmate at the New Amsterdam Prison and Broomes said she sees this as a failure on the part of the authorities.
“I will go and look for her…she was failed,” she said.
“It is nothing that the women miners doing that is deliberate, I would love to go out there and come back and say ‘you know the work that we have done it was well done and now the authorities take up their responsibilities…’ I want to boast because it is very frustrating.”
The GWMO head said she is elated that her organization’s home would soon become a reality.
“We would continue to rescue victims and I want to make it clear that I don’t kidnap people, I don’t kidnap. When I am on ground and we raise our awareness people come to us and identify victims, we have them on video…,” she stated emphatically.
She said the organisation would shortly be releasing another report which would be more detailed and would have a map showing the areas where they have worked and from where the victims were rescued. She believes this would be great material for the authorities.
Food For the poor
The GWMO also in collaboration with Food For The Poor, which has been partnering with the organisation for quite some time, also shared out items to residents in various communities.
A meeting was held at 58 Village which saw residents from neighbouring communities attending during which the items were distributed and residents’ complaints were listened to. One of the sore points for the communities is unemployment and Broomes said discussions are now taking place which could result in a market day being held at 58 Village during which residents from the other communities could bring their produce or whatever items they have to be sold.
“It is a new drive and we are trying to empower women and tell them that they could farm and their produce would be sold…” Broomes said.
The residents also complained about limited health supplies at the only health post which result in many not being adequately treated. In the area of security the residents reveal that they are forming a community policing group.
Broomes has plans to write to the Ministers of Human Services & Social Security and Home Affairs along with acting Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud detailing her findings during the recent visit. She would also be writing to the Minister of Labour as there are issues of labour trafficking that need to be addressed.