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.

Thoughts on Trafficking

13 Jun

There are moments when I feel stuck. I am here in Lagos to look into the issue of human trafficking, specifically to complete an assessment of the safe houses throughout the country. These safe houses have been established to assist victims of trafficking, many of whom have been deported from Europe after having escaped or been rescued from their captors.

Since I arrived two weeks ago I have immersed myself in the subject, reading countless books, reports and laws on trafficking of persons. I have asked almost everyone I encounter about trafficking in Nigeria to try to get an understanding on where Nigerian society as a whole stands on the subject. I have talked, I have listened, I have read and I have written down what I know.

I can know that while trafficking is notoriously hard to trace or prosecute that experts estimate that over 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. I also know that behind the sale of drugs and small arms that trafficking of persons is the most profitable money making venture in the world.

Additionally, I know the international definition of human trafficking as defined in the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children which was passed in 2000. In Article 3 of this protocol “trafficking in persons” is defined as:

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other means of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

But what I can not know, what I can not seem to wrap my mind around or force myself to really think about is what it truly means to be trafficked. Many girls are tricked in traveling overseas by the promise of a new life in Europe. Their traffickers promise them a job as a nanny or a maid in a European country and girls sign up eagerly, thinking that their luck has changed, not knowing the hell that awaits them when they arrive.

What is worse is that many girls are trafficked by a member of their own community or even by a member of their extended family. To be taken by someone you trust, to believe that you have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to pull yourself and your family out of the cycle of poverty, and then to be betrayed and sold into modern-day slavery is a nightmare so horrific that despite it being my entire reason for being in Nigeria, I still can not think about it.

If I try to put myself in their place, try to imagine what I would do if I was sent to a county that I didn’t know, locked in a room and forced to prostitute myself with the consequences of refusal being physical assault, torture and death threats against my family, my mind shuts down and I realize I don’t want to face it. And for a moment I feel stuck. I have to ask myself why I am here, and if the research I am doing has the potential to help the survivors, who with the help of the safe houses, are beginning to piece their lives back together.

The answer, I know, is yes. And because of that, I know I should be here. This is the motivation behind the research I am doing and my motivation to work hard on behalf of the survivors and the numerous service providers throughout Nigeria who are working tirelessly to carve a path towards a brighter future for these young women and girls.

Posted By Laura Cardinal (Nigeria)

Posted Jun 13th, 2006

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