Erica Williams

Erica Williams (WOCON – Women’s Consortium of Nigeria): Erica worked at the Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program at Howard University, in Washington, where she organized material for the African Burial Ground Project. Between 1999 and 2001 Erica worked and studied in Venezuela, Brazil and South Africa. In South Africa, she conducted historical and ethnographic research at the University of Western Cape. Erica studied for her BA at New York University, where she received several travel and research scholarships and volunteered for several different organizations: Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), WomenCare, Face to Face International, The Center for African Spiritual Culture, InI Performance Club, NYU, Golden Rose Awards Banquet Committee, NYU. She also served as Editorial Assistant, Academic Achievement Program Newsletter, NYU. At the time of her fellowship, Erica was studying for a Master's degree in African Studies at Yale University and preparing to start a Ph.D. in Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University. Erica asked many probing questions of AP’s new fellowship program, in person and through her final evaluation: “At the orientation, I noticed the beginning of a possible conflict of interest when I learned that interns were expected to engage in capacity-building at their organizations. But I questioned my ability as a 23 year-old student to tell a 50 year-old experienced, renowned human rights lawyer and activist how to run her organization. Perhaps this is the cultural anthropologist in me, but AP, myself, and future interns must recognize their position as outsiders to Nigeria and to WOCON. Being in that tenuous position creates a dynamic where it is difficult to tell people what they should do, because as outsiders we’re not even accustomed to living in their environment." “For instance, with my office experience in the U.S., I’m used to organizing files in labeled manila folders and hanging file folders in file cabinets. Thus, I found WOCON’s filing system of long folders in a multi-shelved closet impossible to understand. But it works for them. My work experience in the U.S. has also trained me to write out my daily activities, allot a specified amount of time to tasks, and rely heavily on the computer. This is an unattainable goal in Lagos because of the constant unexpected power outages and the fact that sending two emails can take you upwards of two hours. Future interns should be fully aware of the challenges they will face in Nigeria, and even then they may still have trouble adapting to the environment.” Erica also found Lagos to be hard work: “The daily struggles of life in Lagos were another challenge. Constant power outages, traffic jams, torrential rains and floods, painfully slow internet service, and the week-long fuel strike all conspired to make my work more difficult.”

NGOs Fight Trafficking in Benin

09 Apr

After a four-hour bus ride through the bumpy roads of Ogun and Ondo states, I arrived in the hot, dusty town of Benin City on Thursday, July 10. Benin City is notorious for being the major source of victims of trafficking for purposes of sex work in Italy and other Western European countries.

I met with Jane Osagie of the International Reproductive Rights Research Group (IRRRAG), Grace Osakue of Girls’ Power Initiative (GPI), Dr. Nosa Aladeselu of the African Women Empowerment Group (AWEG), and Nowa Omorogbe, Special Assistant to Eki Igbinedion, the First Lady and founder of Idia Renaissance.

Most of these NGOs’ anti-trafficking activities involve prevention and education. Most of my informants were convinced of the power of education to eradicate trafficking. AWEG has counseling units in schools and gives children tips on how to say ‘no’ to traffickers.

Mrs. Osagie raised the interesting point that just because many young women are trafficked from Benin City doesn’t mean that they’re indigenes. “Because of the high publicity given to international trafficking here they know to come to Edo State to find sponsors.”

GPI published Trafficking in Girls: The Way Forward resulting from a research program in Edo, Delta, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River states. Out of 32 victims of trafficking interviewed in Edo and Delta States, more were introduced to sponsors by parents or relatives than by agents or friends. Some parents, seeing another family’s growing wealth after a daughter has been sent abroad, actually seek out sponsors for their daughters.

Posted By Erica Williams

Posted Apr 9th, 2007

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