Last week, I had a chance to sit in on my first counselling session with a 21 year old girl that had been trafficked from Nigeria to Italy. Since her case is new and for her protection, I’ll call her Angel.
Just shy of her 22nd birthday, Angel sat in one of the rooms in the TAMPEP office, nervously shuffling her feet in and out of her sandals. In a mix of English and pidgeon English, the cultural mediator asked her, “ Do you mind if everyone is here? Make you go tell me, and I’ll use style and ask that person to come out. Just tell me eh?” Angel looked down, and with no hesitation said, “No, its alright. Everyone can stay.” Angel sat on the one side of the desk, next to an Italian social worker. On the other side, was the Nigerian cultural mediator and another Italian who typed out Angel’s testimony.
“Ok, Angel- From the beginning, tell us how you came to Turin? What happened?”, asked the cultural mediator. With a heavy sigh, Angel began her story. Six months ago, while still living in Nigeria, she was approached by a man, who knew of the situation of her family. He encouraged her to travel abroad so she could find work to help her family, since they were quite poor. He said she could work in a factory or in an African store. After refusing several times, she finally agreed. The man sent her to Lagos, where she joined several other girls who were getting “paperwork” processed to leave the country. Angel was given a fake passport and visa, and left Nigeria a few months later. She arrived in Turin a few months ago.
Upon her arrival, she was picked up by another women whom she did not know, and later taken to her madam’s apartment. Angel expressed to the counsellors, that she inquired about when she could start working. Her madam, also a Nigerian women, laughed and gave her clothes and shoes for her “new job”. When Angel looked at the clothing, she asked, confused, “ How can I work in a store with clothing’s like this? Is this how you dress in a store?” Her madam laughed again and asked her how she expected to work in a new country with new papers. “This is your new job now,” she told her. She was alone in a new country and confused and scared. She shakingly followed the orders of her madam, and was placed on a street where she was to sell her body. Her first job was “sex by mouth” for 20 euros. The room grew quiet, as if we all needed to process this information. In halting speech, she described how she finally escaped from her madam1s house and refused to continue the work she was doing. “I want to stop it. It is bad work. I want to go back to my parents in Nigeria.”
As I listened to her experience, I wept inside. This girl was young and afraid. In any other place, she should have been just finishing university, thinking about what job she wanted to pursue. She was around my late sister’s age, and I so desperately just wanted to reach out to hug her, pay any money I could to help her get back to her parents. I wondered if her parents knew the fate that had befallen their daughter. Did they think she had “made it” in Europe? Were they rejoicing while this girl was sitting shaking in our office? The sad thing is this is the story of many girls who end up in Turin. They are tricked to leave their country to pursue work overseas, and when they get there they are forced to sell their bodies.
After the session ended, Angel waited in the office to be taken to one of the shelters that TAMPEP opens up for girls in her situation. I asked her if she was hungry, and gave her a small meatpie that I had in my bag. I wanted to give her more. I wanted to give her her life back.
Posted By Leslie Ibeanusi
Posted Jun 11th, 2007