Looking around at the chairs being set up in the motor park near the village market I wondered how in the world we would fill all these empty spaces. I was in a small village in Ebonyi State in southeast Nigeria on my first official market outreach program sponsored by WOCON. The plan was simple. We would go into the market with our megaphone and brochures and talk to the people about the dangers of human trafficking. Then, when we had rallied enough support, we would call on the people to follow us back to the motor park where we would hold a more formal discussion on the anti-trafficking movement in Ebonyi State.
The excitement in the air was palpable as WOCON and Dovenet (our partner organization for this event) staff members and volunteers gathered posters and brochures to hand out to the crowd and the small band we had hired to draw attention began to play. Dressed alike in our t-shirts that read, “Human Trafficking is Modern Slavery,” we grabbed our banner and marched directly into the heart of the market.
We talked to parents about the dangers of sending children to live with long lost relatives in the city on vague promises of an education. Describing the realities of the fate of many of these children, being forced into child labour and prostitution, we encouraged parents and community leaders to stop sending their children out from the village and into the city. At first people looked at us with suspicion, but as our message was broadcast over the megaphone in both English and Ibo languages slowly a crowd began to gather. I could hear whispers of approval and understanding all around me and within minutes I had given out all the informational packets I carried with me.
The crowd followed us to the motor park and in no time the once empty square was packed with people all anxious to learn more about how to stop trafficking in their community as well as to offer testimonials of their own experiences. Community members of all ages and status, from the former Commission of Women’s Affairs, to traditional rulers, to young students home on school break, stood in line to speak about the dangers of human trafficking and to encourage their peers to work together to fight against this destructive practice.
The day ended with an agreement amongst community stakeholders on next steps to be taken to fight trafficking and a task force was established to monitor the progress of anti-trafficking efforts within the community.
From an outside prospective it was amazing to see the community change as the day progressed. Stepping into the market I wondered how effective our small outreach effort would be, but watching as the community embraced the idea was inspiring. The people seemed energized as they rallied around the anti-trafficking message and were eager to set into place their own plan to combat trafficking in their community.
Posted By laura jones
Posted Oct 4th, 2006