An ugly ‘mask’*

Some people wear masks. But you wouldn’t know it at the time. This is the story of a young girl on a bus, full of dreams and hopes for the future. A moment later, she finds herself in a spiral of violence and pain with little hope of escape. Deceived by a lady whose kind face masked her cruel intentions, taking her far away from everyone into a hell that seemed to have no end. 

This is the story of Favor and, sadly, of many other girls across the world. We pray that her voice is heard, and that prevention and action take their course so that no one falls into this horrific pit of human trafficking again.

Back to my family, my country, my life

My name is Favor, I am 16 years old. 

My story begins with a bus trip. I was hoping to find work in the city as a maid for a family, thinking about how to change my future for the better, imagining going to school with the money that I would soon earn.

On the bus, a kind-looking lady in her 40s sat next to me and we started talking. She asked me lots of questions wanting to know where I was going, if I was traveling alone and if I had ever been to Lagos. I responded politely to all her questions; the conversation was enjoyable and it was nice to feel someone was interested in me.

She was curious when I said I was going to take up a job with a family as a domestic worker so I could pay for school, and asked how much they would pay me. When I told her, she looked straight at me and told me that with the small amount I would earn, I would never be able to go to school even if I saved for the next 5 years. If receiving an education was my true dream, then I should follow her to Ghana, and she would help me find a good job that would allow me to pay for my studies.

She seemed so convincing and generous that I accepted her offer; it felt like the only way to reach my dream. But upon arriving in Kumasi, everything changed instantaneously. I don’t even know how to explain. Her kindness turned into violence. My entire world crumbled when we arrived at a hotel and she told me that this was my new home. She then forced me into prostitution.

I lived with my trafficker in the same hotel room for two horrifying months. Every day, she got countless men to sleep with me; they paid her directly. A few refused to sleep with me saying that I was too young. While I was in the room with a man, my trafficker would stay outside; and sometimes, my trafficker would sleep with men of her choice sending me out of the hotel room. 

On one such occasion, during a cold and rainy night, I was waiting outside for hours. It was so cold that I prayed for death. After some time, a hotel worker approached me. She spoke with a very stern voice and a frightening look that scared me: “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 and said that my trafficker was my elder sister. The woman shouted louder “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 her everything. She held me close and asked if I wanted to be freed. I wanted nothing more, but I did not know anyone in Kumasi or in Ghana. There and then, the woman took me to the police. The police then followed us to the hotel room and arrested my trafficker. 

Afterwards, I was taken to Safe-Child Advocacy of the Daughters of Charity in Kumasi. The Sisters and the staff welcomed and reassured me; they took me to their vocational training centre and gave me shelter, care and protection.

I was so shocked and confused when I arrived there, and I am still trying to rebuild my life. The Sisters and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) helped me to return to Nigeria. I am now with my family, trying to recover from the horrors of these months. 

I would still like to go to school and my family is trying to raise money for that. I completed Junior Secondary School and want to go to Senior Secondary School and then become a nurse. If that’s not possible, I want to learn hairdressing and open my own shop. 

I would like people to know that human trafficking is the highest form of greed and wickedness. We need to stop believing and relying on “jobs away from home” and should never follow people who promise us a good life somewhere else. Traffickers must be prosecuted to end human trafficking. 

Girls like myself – girls who were lucky enough to escape and get to go home to their countries and families – need help. We need help to recover, help to heal, and help to find our way back into life. 

*The details of this story have been altered slightly to protect the identity of the beneficiary. Alterations have been made to the name and photo of the beneficiary. Otherwise, all information provided is accurate as narrated by the beneficiary.