Every year, tens of thousands of young women are trafficked from Nigeria to be forced into prostitution in the European sex industry, with the primary destination country being Italy. Benin City, the capital of Edo State, is an internationally recognized hub of sex trafficking in Nigeria. It is certainly Nigeria’s sex trafficking hub, as established by statistics which indicate that 94% of the women and girls trafficked into Europe from Nigeria are from the southern state. In other words, sex trafficking is extremely concentrated in this region of Nigeria. Moreover, one out of every three young women in Benin has been recruited by a sex trafficker into the European sex industry. Sadly, over 97% of the survivors that we have partnered with to provide rehabilitation volunteered to be trafficked. According to Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency, NAPTIP, the average recruitment age of girls from Nigeria is 15. The reality is that it is the toxic combination of poverty, lack of economic opportunities and little to no education that render young women and girls in our context vulnerable to recruiters and sex traffickers. As a result, young women and girls essentially deem prostitution a viable alternative to poverty, as they are faced with considerable pressure from impoverished family members to financially contribute to their households.
At Pathfinders, we believe that the fight against sex trafficking requires an interdisciplinary approach that utilizes both a human rights and an economic development methodology. As such, we are working to ensure that every young woman in Nigeria has an opportunity to live a life that is dignified and one that is graced with relevance. We are building a community of survivors who are becoming awakened to their potential and are not only poverty reduction driven, but are laser focused on wealth creation for themselves, their local communities and the African continent. Many are returning to school, while others are small business owners; all are committed to changing their narratives from victim to survivor to advocate. These are some of their devoted hands.