Laura Cardinal (Nigeria)

Laura Cardinal (Women's Consortium of Nigeria - WOCON): Originally from Albany, New York, Laura Cardinal received her Bachelor of Arts with a focus on Africa Studies from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Upon graduation she received a fellowship from Rotary International and spent a year living and volunteering in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. After returning from East Africa she worked in Chicago, Illinois at Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministries, a refugee resettlement agency. At the time of her fellowship Laura was pursuing a dual degree at Columbia University - a Master of International Affairs at the School for International and Public Affairs, with a focus on Conflict Resolution, and a Master’s degree in Public Health from the Forced Migration Program and the Mailman School.

Blog #6

26 Jul

It is easier if the story of a trafficking survivor stays within the narrowly defined boundaries of what constitutes a trafficking case. This way the victim can be recognized quickly, the blame placed accordingly and assistance to the survivor dole out diligently.

Typically, there are three crucial elements that constitute a trafficking case. First, there is the recruitment of young girls or boys by some means of fraud or deception. This point in the survivor’s story where one hears about captivating promises to start a new life in Europe working as a waitress, a maid or a shopkeeper.

The second component involves the transfer of the victim from one location to another. In Nigeria this often means transporting trafficking victims across international borders, using fake documents, to European countries like Italy or the United Kingdom, or to West African countries like Togo or Cameroon. However, with internal trafficking also plaguing Nigerian society, it is often the simple act of moving the young girls and children from the village to a nearby city like Lagos or Abuja.

The final component is the exploitation of these persons for the gain of the trafficker. In the most horrific example girls are forced to work in slave like conditions as prostitutes in foreign lands. Closer to home, and just as frightening, girls are being forced to work in brothels in nearby towns and children are being denied their right to an education, forced to work as house-help with little or no pay. It is estimated that there are upwards of 50,000 trafficked girls in Lagos alone working in brothels and as domestic servants in private homes.

However, as I continue to compile the stories of these survivors I realize that very few of them fit this neat definition. There are those girls who seem to have a pretty good idea of what they will be doing when they sign up to go abroad and even if they can’t fathom the level of exploitation they will be subjected to when they arrive, they go willingly.

There are other girls who go out and hire their own transportation, determined to get themselves abroad if no one will take them. Smuggling themselves across the border, it isn’t until they enter the unknown territories of new country that their troubles begin.

Then there are those girls who have been intercepted by the police or immigration before they arrive at their final destination. Often angry at having their plans interrupted, they are still wishing for their promise of a better life and do not recognize the danger they were in.

These are the cases I see slipping through the cracks. Outside the boundaries of a typical trafficking, service providers find themselves on uncertain territory and do not know how to help these girls. These are the girls they describe as “troublesome,” and hard to handle. These are the ones that well ill-trained counselors are shying away from and NGO’s say are outside of their mandate. These are the ones I worry most about.

Posted By Laura Cardinal (Nigeria)

Posted Jul 26th, 2006

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