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 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, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as Europe and America go through in these countries.
However, the economic hardship in Nigeria is not helping matters, as many of the victims were merely deceived with mouthwatering job offers.
Recently, two victims who returned from Lebanon and Syria shared their ordeal during an empowerment training programme organised by a nongovernmental organisation, Girls Inspired Development Network (GIDN), in partnership I-Safe, where 20 women survivors of human trafficking were given financial aid of $200 each. The women, drawn from across Lagos, Edo, Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti and Osun states, were engaged in a two-day business development training, after 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 Libya, Oman, Lebanon, Ivory Coast and other countries and were exposed to various forms of torture, abuse and exploitation.
Narrating her experience at the training, one of the survivors, simply identified as Gloria, said she was into poultry farming and was planning to gain admission into a tertiary institution for further studies when the 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 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.”
On her return, she said she got a grant from Queen Moremi to set up a small business and 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 from the Rebirth Hub organisation to move out of his home and secure a separate accommodation, where I now live.”
She had been looking for financial assistance to boost her small business so she could assist others in similar circumstances, until Girls Inspired and I-safe came her way.
“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 promised to resuscitate it and the next time they 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 a living hell as she worked for her: “When I could not bear the torture anymore, I reached out to the chief executive officer of Rebirth Hub, who eventually contacted my agent in Lebanon. My agent said I would have to repay $1,500, which was the amount they spent in bringing me to Lebanon and then buy my flight ticket back to Nigeria. However, with the assistance of my parents and Rebirth Hub, I regained my freedom and returned to Nigeria alive.”
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 indoor and outdoor catering services, but I have not been able to do that due to lack of finance. With this money now, I can start something. I really want to appreciate them for this kind gesture and I promise to make adequate and good use of the money,” she said.
According to the programme manager of I-safe, Miss Patricia Njoku, the survivors’ return was voluntary through support from various nongovernmental organisations, including Girls Inspired, which gave them nutritional 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 said.
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