Durban - A daughter can outgrow your safety net, but she can never outgrow your heart.
That's the sentiment from Durban father and anti-human trafficking activist, Thami Ntimbane, who has started a new organisation - Age of Action - aimed at strengthening family bonds and raising awareness of the dangers of human trafficking and “stranger danger” - particularly for teenagers and young women.
Ntimbane hosted the first “Fathers and Daughters Picnic” at Phansi Museum last weekend and said he had more activities in the pipeline, including a Mothers and Sons event.
Having worked in anti-human trafficking projects, Ntimbane said he was motivated to set up his organisation "after seeing on Facebook, young moms who were in desperate financial need asking for formula and nappies“.
"Sharing these posts, people responded and my idea was to raise money to help.
"But we also need to look at these issues from the roots and talk to our boys and girls.
"I realised that men don't have platforms to discuss how to deal with their daughters, such as if she is seeing a boy or what she is seeing on social media. There is a need to create and strengthen family bonds and prevent tragedies in the future," said Ntimbane.
Being experienced in anti-trafficking projects, having worked for the Umgeni Community Empowerment Centre (UCEC) based in central Durban, Ntimbane said human trafficking was "highly organised and planned", explaining that traffickers used well developed psychological methods to exploit young teens and women.
"When they are young, it's very easy for these people to lure them in. One such strategy is known as the 'lover boy' recruitment, where a teen will be drawn into having a drink with a charming and well mannered young man. He will pretend to have a personal interest and will sound trustworthy," he said, adding that parents must be aware of becoming so strict that their teen rebels
"It's also easy for traffickers to lure in young mothers who are not being supported financially. The recruiter comes across as loving and relaxed and will also profess a love for children.
“He will buy the young lady food and clothes and then after a while, he will tell her she owes him," said Ntimbane.
He said the next step for the trafficker would be to break the targeted woman and move her into sex work, where drug use also entered the picture.
In this scenario other young women are also used to persuade the target into "entertaining a few clients to pay off a growing debt. She feels numb and will take drugs to cope," said Ntimbane. From then on, the target is trapped into a cycle of continued debt and drugs.
The international Traffik Analysis Hub, created by Stop The Traffik and IBM, estimates that there are more than 40 million exploited people across the globe with generated profit to traffickers of $150 billion.
Ntimbane said he had always had a close relationship with his 12-year-old daughter, Lindelwa, and while growing up, she was aware of his work against human trafficking.
"She's very aware of stranger danger, we talk a lot and share a lot. It's important to have that connection: a daughter may outgrow a safety net, but she'll never outgrow your heart," he said.
He emphasised that his parenting gatherings also include stepfathers and stepmothers, same sex parents, as well as helping with conflict resolution strategies between parents who were no longer together, saying "we need to embrace all these relationships and build strong family bonds".
Ntimbane is plans more activities, as well as theatre and musical productions to take to schools to raise awareness about human trafficking. He has been working on a production with three other friends who are in the music and theatre industries.
"We don't want to do a normal presentation - young people want more than that, so we are doing a production with live music and theatre to get the message across," he said.
He said because of delays caused by the Covid lockdowns, Age of Action was still in the process of being registered as a non-profit organisation.
For more information, contact Thami Ntimbane on WhatsApp at 072 427 5886
Independent on Saturday