Testimony from a survivor of human trafficking assisted by the Daughters of Charity, Kumasi
- If you feel able to share, how and when did you first become involved with the traffickers?
My name is Favor, I am 16 years old. I got involved with my trafficker on public transport, on my way to meet a family that was hiring me as domestic staff in a city. My trafficker was a woman in her 40s. We were sitting beside each other on the bus. She started chatting with me, asking me where I was heading to? If I was traveling alone, if I had ever been to Lagos before? I responded to all her questions politely. She showed interest when I said I was on my way to take up a job with a family as a domestic worker. She asked how much the family was going to pay me. When I told her the amount, she asked what a little girl like me needed money for instead of going to school. I told her I wanted to go to school but my parents do not have money. She immediately sat up and looked me straight in the eye and told me that the amount I was going to earn as a domestic staff would not help me to go to school in the next 5 years, and that if I wanted to save money to go to school, I could follow her to Ghana and she would help me get a good paying job that I could save from. She sounded so convincing and kind. I decided to take her offer and followed her to Ghana. That was how she took me to Kumasi and into a hotel where we logged into the same room, and she forced me into prostitution.
- How were you able to escape or get help? Were there any individuals or organizations that assisted you in your journey to freedom?
I lodged with my trafficker in the same hotel room for two horrifying months. Every day, she got countless men to sleep with me in our hotel room and they paid the charge to my trafficker. While I was in the room with a man (a customer as we called them), my trafficker would stay out of our room. A few of the men refused to sleep with me on the grounds that I was too young. My trafficker used to take turns to sleep with men of her choice for money. When she takes her turn to sleep with her men, she would send me out of the hotel room, and I would hang around the hotel premises. On one such occasion, I was hanging around for hours. It was a cold night with heavy rain. I was pacing the veranda of the hotel as the receptionist would not allow me to sit in the reception area. I was so cold that I prayed for death, after much prayer that God would touch her heart to remember that I was outside in the rain.
Suddenly, a woman who worked in the hotel and had seen me hanging around miserably approached me. She spoke to me in a very stern voice with a frightening look that scared me near to death. “Little girl, what in the name of God are you doing here every time? If you are not in your hotel room with a man, you are out waiting for your mistress to have her turn”. She continued, “Now, tell me the truth, who is this woman to you?” I lied to her that my trafficker was my elder sister. The woman shouted harder, saying, “Little girl, I say tell me the truth, this woman cannot be your sister if she treats you like this”.
I broke down and told the woman the whole truth. She held me close to herself and asked if I wanted to be freed from my trafficker. I told her that I wanted very badly to be freed from the woman, but I did not know anyone in Kumasi and the whole of Ghana. There and then, the woman took me to the police and narrated my story to them. The police followed us to the hotel room and arrested my trafficker, while they took me to the Sisters of the Daughters of Charity who work at Safe-Child Advocacy in Kumasi. The Sisters and the staff welcomed me and reassured me. They took me to their vocational training center and gave me shelter, care and protection. I was shocked, confused, broken and felt useless when I arrived at the Centre. The Sisters and the staff supported, encouraged me and gave me hope. The girls I met at the Sisters’ Centre were equally supportive. My trafficker was later prosecuted and convicted to five years’ imprisonment.
- Have you been able to rebuild your life since escaping trafficking? What challenges or successes have you encountered during this process?
I am still in the process of rebuilding my life. I was helped by the sisters and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to return home to my country – Nigeria. I am currently with my family trying to recover from the shock of the experience. My family is trying to raise money for me to learn skills. The Sisters wanted me to stay with another group of Sisters in Nigeria who help trafficked victims. But I just felt like being united with my family, although my family is poor.
- What would you like to achieve for yourself and your future?
I would like to go to school. I stopped schooling in Junior Secondary School, and I would like to further my schooling in senior secondary school. When I complete, and if I have help, I would like to study nursing. But if this is not possible, I would like to learn hairdressing and get a shop of my own. I need help.
- Is there anything you would like people to know about human trafficking based on your personal experience? Any message you would like to share?
I would like people to know that human trafficking is the highest form of greed and wickedness. To stay safe from human trafficking, we need to stop believing and relying on “jobs away from home”. We should not follow people who promise us a good life outside the home. Traffickers must be prosecuted to help end human trafficking. I would also like people to know that survivors of human trafficking need help beyond rescue. I need help, all five girls that were helped to return with me to our countries need help to recover and reintegrate into normal life.
Thank you for giving me the chance to talk about my sad experience of trafficking.