How Catholic Bishops' Commission in Malawi is “combatting” Challenge of Human Trafficking

Sr. Teresa Mulenga with some community members displaying locally made soap. Credit: Sr. Teresa Mulenga

Human trafficking is one of the challenges that the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) is helping address in a three-year initiative that started in July 2022. 

In an interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Teresa Mulenga who has been involved in the initiative explained how CADECOM, an entity of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), is implementing the project dubbed, “Enhancing Capacity and Coordination in Combating Trafficking in Person”, abbreviated as EC3TIP.

“We mostly use awareness campaigns to implement the project through face-to-face meetings with the people in the communities,” Sr. Mulenga said about the initiative that is being realized in partnership with the United States Department of State (UNDOS) through Plan International Malawi.

In the September 17 interview, the Malawian member of the Sisters of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus (Teresian Sisters), who also assists in the office of Communication of her Religious Order said the awareness initiative “was triggered by the rising number of cases of people being trafficked in Malawi.”

“A report published last year indicates that Malawi reported 145 cases of trafficking victims in 2022,” she said, explaining the background of the initiative that she is facilitating in collaboration with CADECOM office of Malawi’s Blantyre Archdiocese.


Most of the Malawians are trafficked to South Africa and Mozambique, Sr. Mulenga said, adding that those trafficked are usually coerced with money and employment promises, and that this is coordinated with some “powerful organizations in the country”.

Credit: Sr. Teresa Mulenga

Focusing on capacity building in Malawian district and community structures, the initiative was recently realized in two-day workshops at the end of August, one in Mulanje district covering the communities of Njema and Nkanda from August 28-29, and the other, from August 30-31 in Mwanza district, covering Kanduku, Ntchache and Govati communities, Sr. Mulenga said.

The two Malawian districts were targeted due to their proximity to the borders, the Malawian Catholic Nun who is also the Program Coordinator of the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) in Malawi explained.

Participants in the workshops, the Malawian Catholic Nuns said, “are mostly taught on the recent forms of trafficking including promises for good jobs and being lured by money. They are also taught on the dangers of trafficking and how to identify traffickers, and also on reporting mechanisms if there are signs that one has been trafficked.”

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Credit: Sr. Teresa Mulenga

The workshops also involve equipping participants with entrepreneurial skills for their economic empowerment after realizing that poverty contributes to the cases of trafficking, Sr. Mulenga said about the three-year initiative that seeks to achieve three objectives.

In a note shared with ACI Africa, the Teresian Sister outlined the three objectives as capacity building of frontline officials to “proactively screen, identify, refer and protect TIP survivors”; the strengthening of “coordination at national and district level among anti trafficking actors”; and the combatting of human trafficking in view of enhancing “prevention, identification and reporting of human trafficking among community level stakeholders”.

In the September interview, Sr. Mulenga said that alongside entrepreneurial skills, participants in workshops are equipped with environmental conservation skills, including ways of “finding alternative sources of energy from farm wastes.”

Credit: Sr. Teresa Mulenga


“In entrepreneurial, we train them in soap making so that they can earn a source of income through it,” she said, and added, “Some of them are given initial capital to kick start their business.”

Sr. Mulenga underscored the need for a strategic approach, and called for “coordination among agencies combating this issue and people also need to work together.”

“We need to help the local people mostly in the rural areas and villages to ensure that they receive the right education so that they can understand situations and also help them be economically empowered because not everybody can be employed by the government,” she said.

The Malawian Catholic Nun went on to challenge her country’s government “to do a lot of research about the real situation on the ground and come up with practical policies to mitigate the issue.”

In a separate interview with ACI Africa, Fioney Kaliati, one of the beneficiaries of EC3TIP, the anti-trafficking initiative in Malawi, acknowledged with appreciation the training.

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“It was a nice training; most villagers around participated. We learned a lot on how to save money mainly in groups; we are able to do small business. We also learned how to make other products like soap,” Ms. Kaliati said during the Monday, September 18 interview.

She added, “We also learned how to protect the environment. l encourage people to take part in fighting against human trafficking.”

In another interview, the Secretary for CADECOM in the Archdiocese of Blantyre said that the EC3TIP initiative that is carried out in collaboration with community police, leaders, learners, and members of the parliament has had “over 15 cases with five traffickers being sentenced and 10 still in court.”

Mandinda Zungu told ACI Africa that the initiative is also implemented in collaboration with governments from South Africa and Mozambique where some of the victims are trafficked, with success stories of the cooperation.

Credit: Sr. Teresa Mulenga

“In April last year, we rescued four girls, who were being trafficked to Turkey and the tip came through CADECOM from a family member whose daughter was being trafficked,” Ms. Zungu said during the September 18 interview, 

She added, “We also provide reintegration in the sense that once a person is rescued we ensure that they are reintegrated in the society through either village settings or other income-generating activities such as being equipped with vocational skills.”

Through the Malawi Network Against Human trafficking where she is a board member, Ms. Zungu said that she has been able to lobby for funds to help some of the stranded human trafficking victims, facilitating their return to their respective countries.

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