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International Organization for Migration on the safe travel campaign trail
International Video Fair (IVF)
Extracted from IVF Newsletter: Issue No 9 (Sept - Dec 2006)
November 01, 2006

Waving a banner "ku Joburg ne Pakati" (Johannesburg through sex), a woman invites clients to offer her a lift in exchange for sexual favours so that she can earn money. To her the risks of such unsafe travel outweighs everything because she needs to survive.

Not only is this woman at risk of contracting the HIV virus that causes AIDS, but she can also be raped or murdered.

For another woman, her survival path is through hitch hiking in as much as 30 trucks a day, all which would be traveling outside the borders. Sometimes she gets the lucrative foreign exchange.

Touched by the plight of these women, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) carried a three months campaign on the "Life is a journey, keep it safe" using video as a tool to disseminate information.

The campaign was coordinated by the International Video Fair Trust (IVF) on behalf of IOM and disseminated information covering issues of irregular migration, HIV & AIDS and human trafficking.

The campaign was part of a larger multimedia campaign that also saw other forms of media such as drama, song, dance, radio shows, posters, bill boards and car stickers being used by the IOM in the past 12 months.

IOM is an international organization, which has offices in over 100 countries globally. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Its regional office for Southern Africa is in Pretoria, although it has offices in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. IOM member states in the region are Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Mozambique and Namibia hold observer status. IOM has signed a cooperation agreement with the Government of Lesotho.

IOM serves migrants and governments by providing and processing organized movement arrangements for persons in need of international migration assistance.

It also seeks to create an understanding of migration issues, and help find ways of ensuring migrants can contribute to the economy and the social development of their host countries. Achieving these objectives becomes easier if migration is managed in a way that recognizes the human dignity and well being of migrants.

Its other function is to assist governments to deal with the fast-emerging issues of trafficking in persons for exploitation, on smuggling of illegal migrants, on dealing with HIV & AIDS and mobile populations and can provide technical cooperation assistance on Migration Management.

The just ended campaign reached some of the most vulnerable groups in the country, with a special focus on mobile population such as truck drivers, cross border traders, families and individuals in search of work, providing critical information on what documents are needed and how to avoid the grave dangers of irregular migration. It focused on border towns and transit routs in order to reach all potential migrants.

"No one is denying the challenges facing Zimbabweans, said Mr. Mohammed Abdiker, Chief of Mission of IOM Harare at the start of the campaign. "But irregular migration puts people - often women and children at greater risk. Low or no pay, sexual abuse and human trafficking are just some of risks IOM wants to combat."

Migration is a natural phenomenon and when done correctly, can serve to benefit all. Irregular migration is when people live or work abroad without correct documentation, or when they partake in activities, which are not permitted on their visa. Undocumented migrants may face exploitation in the workplace, through low or no pay, little or no access to health care, lack of legal rights, and the risk of falling prey to human trafficking schemes, the sex trade and HIV infection. If caught, irregular migrants may face deportation.

According to statistics by IOM, 400 Zimbabweans are deported from South Africa a day through the Beitbridge border post. Last year 97000 people were deported from South Africa alone. IOM said human traffickers prey on the false hopes of those who see no possibility of getting a job or any prospect for a decent future at home and are seduced by promises of good money abroad. "People tend to think life is a bed of roses when they migrate", says IOM Communications Manager in Harare Nicola Simmonds.

Some of the disturbing cases she cited in Zimbabwe were a study that had shown that Zimbabwean minors and teenagers were living in squalid conditions at Musina, a border town in South Africa and human trafficking of youths to Egypt, China and South Africa who were lured with promises of pursuing modeling careers. Simmonds said as a result of such cases, youths were the target of the next IOM campaign.

During the campaign films such as the Miners tale, 5106 and Scenarios from Sahel were featured. HIV & AIDS, human trafficking and condom use were shown in different parts of the country.

At feedback sessions, some women confirmed traveling without proper travel documents, citing a cumbersome and expensive process in trying to cross the border the proper way. Others complained of the long process to get the passports and visas.

"I appreciate your advice, but surely I cannot wait one year so that I can migrate whilst my family is starving," said one.

However the films were generally a success, save for a few areas such as in Manicaland where attendance was low due to cultural and religious beliefs. Most women in that area refused to talk about condoms or even receive them.

The audiences in some of the areas said they had understood the main message being conveyed by the films such as the need to consistently use condoms when indulging in sex and the risks associated with illegal border crossing such as human trafficking and HIV & AIDS.

They also learnt the need to have correct documentation when traveling, to be faithful or abstain from sex, to ensure they have adequate money and food, respecting their parents, and how to use both male and female condoms.

Said one: "I learnt that get your facts right about where you are going. Have your passport, visa, cash, and condoms". While another one said: "life is a journey for me to keep it safe I should travel on the right channel legally and if temptations come my way I should always use condoms".

The shows were also shown in beer halls and targeted the general communities including the high-risk groups such as the truck drivers and the commercial sex workers. Some truck drivers admitted they were not faithful because they could not be satisfied with one woman. They appreciated the condom distribution while some commercial sex workers requested for more condoms.

Some crowds admitted they had enjoyed the condom demonstration which they found highly educative especially with regards the female condom which was still not popular.

It was suggested at some places that the films be shown also to secondary schools, army barracks and mining communities.

One participant said: "I really enjoyed this segment . . . it taught me about life e.g. condoms and traveling."

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