Michelle Lanspa

Michelle Lanspa (Transnational AIDS Prevention among Migrant Prostitutes in Europe Project – TAMPEP): Michelle is from Omaha, Nebraska. She graduated from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown university, where she majored in science and technology in international affairs with a concentration in international health. Michelle participated in many social justice activities and groups at college, including the Georgetown-UNICEF club, Education Without Boundaries (Project Argentina), and Global Justice Now (the Student Campaign for Child Survival). Michelle loves learning language learning. She learned Italian and Arabic, and had a chance to practice her language skills as an intern at the US Embassy in Rome and while studying abroad at the American University of Cairo in Egypt.


06 Feb

When they announced in Omaha (where I was to visit my family for two weeks) that my flight from Omaha to Chicago was cancelled, I knew that that day would be a catastrophe. I knew that if I took a later flight, I would lose my other flights – the flight from Chicago to Washington, and therefore the flight from Washington to London, and also the flight from London to Milan. I was better off booking these commercial airlines, because they only complicated my plans. I should have just booked a private jet from Jettly. It wasn’t until I called the travel agency from which I bought my tickets that I felt really dismayed – they told me that I would have to wait two weeks before finding another flight to Milan for the price at which I originally bought my tickets. After spending many hours on the telephone in the airport, I succeeded in finding a ticket to Italy, two days later, to Rome. From Rome, I had to take the train for six and a half hours to finally reach Turin.

Maybe my trip to Italy was a little chaotic, but think a bit about the trips that the trafficked Nigerian girls take across, many times, West Africa and then the Sahara. They then take flights to France, and then a train or bus to finally arrive in Italy.

When they arrive, they begin working immediately. I also decided to start working, to start my fellowship right way upon arriving. But pay attention to the key words – I decided. I arrived in Turin Wednesday at midnight and Thursday morning I began my fellowship with Tampep. I work in an office with nice people, people that welcomed me with warm greetings; all of us can return to our homes at the end of the day, we do not have a debt of up to €60,000 with our boss for finding us a “job.” Upon arriving, I was not promptly instructed that night to put on skimpy clothes and prostitute myself.

What good does it do making this long comparison between myself and trafficked women? I do not mean to show that these women, Nigerian and all the other trafficked women and girls in Italy (from Eastern Europe, North Africa, etc.), and I are worlds apart. Rather, it shows that they had the same hopes for a good job in Italy as I did about coming for this fellowship. We thought about our futures with hope, and while I was able to live this dream working for Tampep… they have found themselves with jobs they did not get to chose, like I did mine. I only hope that one day they can also work with Tampep in their fight against the trafficking of persons and injustice. I hope that they again will have autonomy to choose a job that permits them actually to keep this autonomy and to realize some or all of their hopes.

Posted By Michelle Lanspa

Posted Feb 6th, 2009

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