HUMAN TRAFFICKING- THE RICE, THE CHILD & HEAVEN

 Hi Dear,

Did you know that January is National Slavery and Human trafficking prevention month?

It’s dear to my heart, and that’s why I wrote this piece- the rice, the child and heaven.

It’s pretty long! Please bear with me…and lend your voice in spreading this awareness.

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Let’s talk about rice.

Do you know that the price of rice in the market has increased?

Thanks to the new import-export laws in the country.

It is expensive. Especially in cities outside Lagos.

Imported rice is contraband in Nigeria and so, for people travelling interstate, they have to re-bag their ‘Oyibo’ rice in smaller nylons or in a misleading bag to avoid it being seized. Another option is to bribe the ‘customs guys’.

However, huge kudos to the ‘custom guys’, because, they may be lenient in ‘rice trafficking’, but there’s no price attached to a child (hopefully).

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Let’s talk about the child.

When I was younger, I used to hear a lot about Kidnappers. We called them ‘Gbomo Gbomo’. They would come into a neighbourhood, and take the child away from their families…I always wondered why they targeted children. Probably because they were easy prey. I wondered what they used these kids for- Sexual exploitation, forced labour in cocoa farms far away from their home, rituals.

When I was younger, an ‘uncle’ in church once invited me to his little room, He said He had sweets to offer. I was a wise child and I ran away from ‘Uncle’.

Not many Children can.

Not many are enjoying life with mommy and daddy, safe in their arms

Not many are running wild and free, in the beach or in the church….riding horses or singing praises to God. Not many are educated and healthy. Not many have voices or even a snippet of dreams, even if broken.

I once met this little ‘beggar’. Maybe He’s 5. He carried a car brush and literary prostrated before me on the highway, in the name of Money. ‘Aunt, please help me’.

He followed me to the other side of the road, and while buying biscuit, I assessed him. Little fellow had wounded scalps on his head, and the sadness was as tattered as the dress on His body. Injuries were everywhere. A bath would be great for Him. I was advised to never give street kids money. These boys are affiliated to a robbery cartel/ gang. Giving them money only funds the robbers, and encourages the kids towards acts of hatred.

What happens when you don’t give them money? They will be beaten, mutilated (SLUM DOG MILLIONAIRE STYLE)

I wondered about His parent. Does He sleep under the bridge too?

Poverty is such a bad thing. Isn’t it child abuse when a child is forced to become grown-up in all the wrong ways?

What about the little boys and girls who carry their blind guardian/ stranger from car to car in Yaba or CMS begging for alms. These kids are not more than 10 years old…But it feels like, that is all they know. Are they happy about it?

What if these kids were kidnapped?

Have you thought about the little boys and girls trapped in Syrian war? What about those in IDP camps across Nigeria?

I pray something is done.

I pray Love meets the kids…Because there’s something beautiful when love adopts a person…its freedom. I don’t see freedom for most of these trapped kids.

Children are at a high risk of being trafficked.

My sister shared a sad experience of how, one time, while travelling,a bus full of children was stopped by Customs officials on the Calabar- Lagos route. The woman with the children said that they were hers. The customs officials requested to speak with their Father, and apparently, both Father and Mother could not even agree on the name of their children. It was suspicious. On further investigation, the woman confessed to stealing these children from the neighbouring country, Cotonou. She was going to give them out.

My sister says that sometimes, ‘parent/ guardians’ provide birth certificates as proof of ownership for the child…but I worry about the authenticity of these documents.

Another incident I heard of, was about a man travelling to Lagos with an underage girl. When accosted, he told the custom officials that he was taking her to school in the city, but on further investigation, it was discovered that, she was going to work.

What kind of work can an underage girl possibly be doing?

These people- traffickers, visits poor villages and literally pay parents for their children. They promise to educate these kids, giving the good jobs. However, these kids never go to school. They work in shops or brothels, and sometimes, with hateful masters.

Their salaries are given to ‘agents’, who determine how much these kids get.

Lala, my little friend from Cotonou told me that much. He was trafficked and slaved away for a while. Thank God, he’s reunited with His family…But the ordeal He went through…My God- Be kind to everyone you meet.

He was one of the people that helped spark my interest in trafficking, and it’s dangers.

The recent kidnap of the Chibok girls also brought so much light to this issue.

Human trafficking is real. It is a growing business. And it has to be stopped.

Human trafficking exists as Labour trafficking and Sex trafficking.

On my street, it exists.

They call it Heaven.

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Let’s talk about Heaven. 

There’s a brothel on my street.

Atop its roof, the phrase ‘Welcome to 7th Heaven’ is boldly written. The green leaves can’t mask it, and yes, it is far from Heaven.

On most mornings, as I go for a walk to the junction, I see little men leave this place. They include the teenage boys and young adults, with so much swag, and empty hearts. And in the evenings, there are cars driving in there, to take their piece of false ‘heaven’ from naked girls behind the gates.

Nkem visited once. A heart-break led him there. He tasted her. Spirit exchanged…the bad and ugly. He paid her for it.

He was young.

He hated himself and the girl. ‘Girls are worthless’, he would say. And I would smirk at the double standard of it all. You paid her for Sex, what makes you righteous in this?

He didn’t stop though. He invited his friends over.

They would watch sex tapes and try it on her.

It’s 4,000 naira, he says. Small money. He says.

She will say, ‘Money for hand, back for ground’.

And He thinks he is in heaven.

I want to grab his heart and yell, ‘Her soul is worth more than that. She is priceless. Pornography is evil and don’t lose your soul to a lie’.

The girl. I wish I could hug her. To tell her that ‘prostitution’ is never an answer.

Why girl? Why?

Does she hear the early morning call from the preachers? Does she know that Jesus love her so much? Does she cry to God?

Does she want to stop or is her heart hardened?

I once asked Nkem what life is like there.

He’s repentant now. He’s changed.

‘It is a sad world, nothing like heaven’. Her room is tiny and very dim. She would skip conversations and serve you what you want. 2,000 goes to her pimp for room rent and maintenance. The rest belongs to her.

And I wonder why…why choose to be a prostitute?

Nkem said its greed. He tried to help a girl once. She was new in sex slavery. He was willing to go all out for her- securing her a job and giving hope to her son and herself. Her words were, ‘I can’t work with anyone. I want my own shop’. He left her, and each night, she will leave her son, somewhere and cater to the evil desires from stupid men. Greed. She was greedy.

Her pimp. He is married. He doesn’t carry a walker like they do in books and movies. He doesn’t have a beard or look mean and angry. He is married and visits home every weekend. He wears glasses. He drives a car and is unassuming.

He protects his clientele and He never sleeps with her.

He has a life. He destroys hers.

 

I see them each morning as I go to work. I just stare and stare and whispers silent prayers for them. They are young, old, intelligent, beautiful, haggard, slim, fat….girls…whose worth right now is found in men who come to them at night, paying from his leaky pocket.

She has no choice. She argues. Life gave her this option. Some are just Lazy and greedy. Some chose this lifestyle.

If she tries to run. He stops her. Kills her.

He has a life. He destroys her.

My heart for her- that girl in Obalende with the loud music in the morning, whose joy probably do not come from the fact that some strange men tore at her honor; Her on my street, whose pillow carries her story even though she tries to mask it with concealers and wide smiles- is that She is priceless, because Love came and paid the price for her. She matters. She was made in God’s image. She has a choice, because love is kind and not selfish. She carries a crown, one that identifies as God’s own, if only she knows it. She doesn’t need to be greedy, because blessings are beyond money and God gives that too. She can be free. Freedom reigns where God is. She can breathe it in.

This is not just for the girls. Remember, there are male prostitutes who are hurting. Boy and men who are kidnapped and used for unhealthy purposes.

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Human trafficking is so sad. It is modern day slavery. It is real. It exists even today.

An estimated 27 million men, women, and children are caught in trafficking situations. Every 30 seconds someone becomes a victim of modern day slavery. The average age of trafficking victim is 12 years old.

– The A21 Campaigne

Let’s hear what the ‘academics’ are saying about it:

The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

Experts have noted that human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world and one of the most lucrative. Some estimate that as many as 29 million people exist in slavery worldwide, more than twice the number of slaves transported during the entire Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
According to Caritas Nigeria:

Nigeria is a well-known source country for international human trafficking. Many hundreds of young Nigerian girls are trafficked to Europe and Asia every year, where they are put to work in brothels and strip clubs, or sent out to prostitute themselves in the streets.  Internal trafficking also occurs within Nigeria’s borders. Young boys and girls are recruited from poor families in rural areas with a promise of work or education in the city, and are then sold into domestic servitude or forced work on farms or in factories and mines with little or no pay. These victims of trafficking often have to endure physical and psychological abuse and are under continuous threats of physical harm or deportation.

According to Polarisproject.com

Victims of human trafficking can be divided into three populations:

  1. Children under age 18 induced into commercial sex.
  2. Adults aged 18 or over induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion.
  3. Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion.

Traffickers lure and ensnare people into forced labor and sex trafficking by manipulating and exploiting their vulnerabilities. Human traffickers recruit, transport, harbor, obtain, and exploit victims – often using force, threats, lies, or other psychological coercion. Traffickers promise a high-paying job, a loving relationship, or new and exciting opportunities. In other cases, they may kidnap victims or use physical violence or substance abuse to control them.

To identify victims of Human Trafficking, watch out for these red flags:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

If you are in Nigeria, and you recognise any of these signs, please contact, http://www.naptip.gov.ng/index.php/contact

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“To the ones who run and play,

In this air

Called freedom

Pick your swords

And unlock the shackles

Off the ones

Bound in hate

Plant beauty

Where ugly draws breathe

With the gift

You’ve been given”

-Ijeoma Unegbu // End Slavery

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Free ones, we must help: See Isaiah 61: 1-3– ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…..’

“We can help praying for those in bondage, and even for the perpetrators (that God changes their heart to acts of real love). There’s nothing like freedom. Where Gods spirit there is freedom. Carry God’s spirit with you, and let Him break off the bondages that exists around.

We must also raise awareness, and report it. That’s an act of love. Most people do not know that this is happening. And so, be a voice (Proverbs 31:8-9).

Third, we must act to help those in bondage. These actions can involve a variety of means, ranging from volunteering in an anti-trafficking organization to financial giving to teaching about the topic where you live. Also, one additional way to provide practical assistance is through supporting fair trade and survivor-made products.” (Source- https://www.gotquestions.org/human-trafficking.html)

We can also help by:

Not supporting businesses in industries known for slavery. It saddens me that the chocolate industry is one of the biggest offenders in this area. And I love chocolate! But I try to seek out companies that have taken a stance against slavery and are proactive in making sure their supply chain doesn’t keep this oppression going. Looking for it, talking about it, and doing something. (Source- Saving for Someday)

Hey dear, put yourself in their shoes. Stand. Fight. Give hope.  Gift Freedom. Because we helped, their ending may be more beautiful. Together, with God’s help, we can end modern-day slavery.

 

Love & Light

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