Awareness raising on Labour Migration for local community leaders in rural Kenya

The two labour migration awareness raising meetings in Kilifi and Busia brought together local community leaders from across Kilifi County and Busia County including the chiefs, assistant chiefs, village elders, community policing and community administrators.

The aim of the meetings was to increase awareness of community leaders on safe labour migration, educate local leaders on national laws governing labour migration and grievance and dispute handling at community level pertaining to labour migration. The community leaders’ meetings were organized through an implementation agreement on labour migration awareness raising between the FAIRWAY Project and COTU Kenya.

Group photo of community leaders meeting participants in Busia, Kenya
Kilifi County lies in the eastern boundary of Kenya on the Indian Ocean coast. Busia County borders Uganda in the west of Kenya. Both counties are associated with a lot of migration for labour both internally and externally but also experience incidences of human trafficking. During the meetings and discussions, the leaders highlighted the various contributing factors to labour migration such as unemployment, youth idleness and peer influence, poverty, early pregnancies resulting to many girls dropping out of school which continue to be a major challenge following Covid-19 pandemic. Domestic violence is also a push factor and some spouses opt to leave the country for employment a broad as a measure to escape abusive or exploitative marriages.

Migrant workers from Kilifi County are engaged in low skilled work in countries of destination mainly in the Middle East countries. This has often been associated with similarities in religion (Islam) and Swahili culture. Some of the migrant workers are linked to employers in the Middle East Countries by private recruitment agencies while other through friends and family members. According to the local chiefs, a lot of sensitization on matters of labour migration is required at the grassroots level where the majority of labour migrants are drawn. Many prospective migrant workers and community leaders are not aware of the labour rights for the migrant workers as well as provisions of the national laws that govern labour migration. Within the villages there is a lot of misinformation regarding labour migration and workers make misinformed decisions and choices out of desperation for employment.  Kilifi County is among the leading counties in Kenya in terms of labour migration to the Middle East, with a majority of the migrant workers being drawn from the villages. The County has long standing history of labour migration to the Middle East Countries through the coastal line of the Indian Ocean. Despite the historical and religious linkages with the countries of destination, migrant workers in this county to the Middle East are not spared from the challenges encountered by other workers from other regions of Kenya.

Participants in Busia meeting
Many migrant workers from Busia County are engaged in low skilled work in most countries of destination within the Middle East countries that have existing demand for such workers and they include domestic workers, family or company drivers, car wash, baby sitters, cleaners etc. According to the chiefs, there hasn’t been sensitization on matters of labour migration at the community level, a situation that contributes to migrant worker’s vulnerability in countries of destination. Most of the workers and community leaders are not aware of labour rights and provisions of the national laws on matters of labour migration. There is a lot of misinformation within the community on matters of labour migration and sometimes workers do not know where to get accurate and correct information when seeking for employment abroad. Village Elders present indeed confirmed that there are lots of rumours in the village about labour migration, little knowledge on accessing relevant information pertaining to labour migration and where such information can be obtained.

Topics discussed included national laws governing labour migration, the ILO General principles and guidelines for fair recruitment and possible ways of handling migrant worker’s grievances at community level. Community leaders were advised to sensitize their communities and encourage prospective migrant workers to visit the local Ministry of Labour offices for further guidance when seeking employment abroad. This will help the prospective migrant workers know whether the recruitment agencies are properly registered and also help to identify rogue recruitment agencies.

The two meetings brought together 100 community leaders of whom 44 were female