In the shadows: Lesotho’s struggle against human trafficking

Feb 22, 2024

While Lesotho’s landscapes may be breathtaking, the small African Kingdom grapples with a persistent issue that often lurks in the shadows – human trafficking. Lesotho’s geographical position, surrounded entirely by South Africa, presents both opportunities and challenges for the nation. Being landlocked within South Africa makes eliminating human trafficking extremely difficult as there are countless routes for vulnerable people to be smuggled across the border. 

Poverty serves as the breeding ground for human trafficking in Lesotho. With over half the population living below the poverty line and an unemployment rate that hovers around 80%, individuals are desperate for economic opportunities. 

girl getting water in Lesotho

Traffickers often target vulnerable women and children, luring them with promises of employment, education, room and board, food or small gifts like toys and candy. Once trapped, victims find themselves subjected to various forms of abuse, including forced labor and sexual exploitation. When presented with an opportunity, many have little choice but to fall into the trap of false promises of a better life outside of the borders of their country.

In many instances, desperate families send their children to South Africa in hopes they have more economic or educational opportunity, which often lands them in the hands of traffickers. Traffickers typically target rural communities, where employment rates are particularly low and where the gender-imbalance is more pronounced. In rural communities it is also easier for traffickers to slip through the cracks of law enforcement and hide in the mountains. 

In Lesotho, traffickers exploit Basotho children, especially orphans, in forced labor in domestic servitude and animal herding and in sex trafficking.  Young girls employed in domestic work in exchange for room and board are vulnerable to forced labor and abuse.” – from the 2023 Trafficking in Persons report 

Help Lesotho’s programs work to actively inform participants about the dangers of human trafficking and how to protect themselves against potential situations where they could be vulnerable to traffickers. Our edu-tainment group GIRL4ce works to spread the word in rural communities throughout Lesotho, educating communities on how to understand the signs of human trafficking and protect its citizens. 

Help Lesotho leaders in training program

Addressing poverty is crucial to breaking the vicious cycle that enables human trafficking to thrive. Initiatives that focus on education and creating employment opportunities can empower individuals, making them less susceptible to the allure of traffickers. 

On this International Day of Awareness Against Human Trafficking, Help Lesotho remains dedicated to actively promoting the message on safeguarding women and children, and entire communities from this pervasive crime.

If you or someone you know needs help, reach out to Skillshare (+266 22317399) or Beautiful Dream Society (+266 63423361) or contact your local police.