By Sunday Ani
As the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) intensifies campaigns against human trafficking and aggressively goes after the barons who are neck deep in the illicit, inhuman business, more Nigerians, particularly young girls, keep falling victim to their antics. Every day, there is one media report or the other about what Nigerians who were trafficked to Arab countries like Libya, Oman, Lebanon, United Arab Emirate (UAE), as well as Europe and America, go through in their countries of destination.
However, the economic hardship in Nigeria is not helping matters, as many of the victims were merely deceived with promises of mouthwatering job offers.
Recently, some of the victims who returned from Lebanon and Syria shared their ordeals during an empowerment training programme organised by a nongovernmental organisation, Girls Inspired Development Network (GIDN) in partnership with I-Safe, where 20 women survivors of human trafficking were given financial aid of $200 each. The women, who were drawn from Lagos, Edo, Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti and Osun States, were engaged in a two-day business development skills training, after which, they were supported with grants of $200 each to grow their micro businesses.
Titled, “Stand with survivors of human trafficking,” the project was sponsored by Freedom United. The beneficiaries were trafficked to various countries like Libya, Oman, Lebanon, Ivory Coast and other countries and were exposed to various forms of torture, abuses and exploitations.
Narrating her experience at the training, one of the survivors simply identified as Gloria said she was into poultry farming and planning to gain admission into a tertiary institution for further studies when the evil idea of travelling to Oman was sold to her. “I was told I could still further my education over there while working as a domestic servant,” she said.
Unfortunately, Gloria’s dreams were dashed as she got what she never bargained for. Not only did she go through hell in the hands of her slave masters, she finally came down with three different ailments, which almost took her life. “I worked in two families where I saw hell. At the end of the day, I was diagnosed with ulcer, kidney stone and urinary tract infection. Even with that, I was still not allowed to go but I thank God that eventually, I was set free after I had spent all that I saved,” she said.
On her return, she set up a small business to take care of herself, but somehow, she got entangled with an abuser, who got her pregnant. “He would always descend on me whenever he was not in a good mood. Life became a living hell for me and with no family or friend to turn to, depression set in. Luckily, I got financial assistance to move out of his home and secure a separate accommodation, where I now live,” she stated.
She has been looking for financial assistance to boost her small business so she could assist others in similar circumstances until she met with The Migrant Project (TMP) who after counseling her and listening to her ordeal, connected her to Girls Inspired and I-safe for economic empowerment and other interventions. “I appreciate the donor for allowing me to participate in this business empowerment training. I learnt that as an entrepreneur, you must learn to set achievable goals. I thank the Girls Inspired Development Network and I-safe for contributing to my business. It was almost going down but with this money, I promise to resuscitate it and the next time they will visit my shop, they will rejoice with me,” she said.
Another survivor, Jane, was trafficked to Lebanon by a Nigerian agent. According to her, after three months of enslavement in Lebanon, she was sold to a Syrian Lebanese woman, who made life unbearable as she worked for her. “When I could not bear the torture anymore, I reached out to somebody, who eventually contacted my agent in Lebanon. My agent said I would have to repay $1,500, which was the amount they spent to send me to Lebanon and then buy my flight ticket back to Nigeria. However, with the assistance of my parents and some people, I regained my freedom and returned to Nigeria alive,” she narrated.
Jane, a professional chef, said finance has been her major constraint since she returned, and thanked GIDN and I-safe for the financial aid. “Although I am a chef, my plan is to start an online kitchen where I will offer both indoor and outdoor catering services, but I have not been able to do that due to lack of finance. But, with this money now, I can start up something. I really want to appreciate them for this kind gesture and I promise to make adequate and good use of the money,” she stated
According to the Programme Manager of I-safe, Patricia Njoku, the survivors’ return was voluntary through support from various nongovernmental organisations such as IOM, Rebirth Hub, including Girls Inspired, which gave them feeding support.
“These women were connected to learn various vocational skills and businesses; however, they needed funding to grow the skills. To bridge this gap, GIDN and I-Safe, through the support from Freedom United, provided economic empowerment to 20 selected women survivors, who are mostly single mothers. They are fashion designers, make-up artists, artisans, caterers and businesswomen,” she stated.