After several years of being trapped in sex slavery in Russia, sex trafficking survivor, ‘Sonia,’ returned to Nigeria with nothing but broken dreams. Pathfinders was able to help her change her narrative from victim to survivor. She is now a proud business owner (specializing in ankara shoes and bags) and advocate, using her voice to help other survivors emerge from slavery. Here is her story:
“My name is Sonia. I am twenty-six (26) years old. I left Nigeria in the year 2013. I left because things weren’t okay for me. I gained admission into school but had nobody to sponsor me. Somebody came and said there was an opportunity for me to travel. So I asked them. “travel to do what?” They said that we were going to be prostituted but just for two to three months; that we could also change business. We could sell or do any other thing with the money that we had previously. I said okay, since it’s not for a very long time, it’s just for a while. So, I left.
They seized my passport. Immediately I got there, they took the passport from me. The next day, they said we should start working into prostitution. Things were very horrible, very rough. Sometimes in a day, we slept with five to six men, sometimes eight. If there was a lot of work, sometimes eight. We would hustle by the road side, standing inside the cold weather, our hands, our legs, everything would freeze. Our madam would ask us not to come back home without working. So we’d stand for a very long time in the cold. Sometimes we’d go to work and we would be beaten. Sometimes we would be called for work to attend to only one person but on getting there, we would meet up to five to six men. If we refuse to work, [heavy sigh] beating! They would beat the hell out of us. [Heavy sigh]. When I was to come back to Nigeria, I crossed my mind saying, “even if it’s sand, sand! I would eat it in Nigeria.” I am not going into prostitution anymore. So I came back.
It was a friend of mine that introduced me to PathFinders. It has been very good working with them. They taught me. I learnt how to make Ankara bags and shoes. Now I can make Ankara bags and shoes and also get a lot of profit from it. So, ever since I met PathFinders, things have been very different for me. Yes! I see a bright future for me.
I would advise [others considering the journey abroad] not to go because they will be deceived. They will be deceived! They should not go. It is very wrong to go. They would tell them a lot of good things; that sometimes when they get there, they would meet a white man, they would be very lucky, a white man would pay the settlement [debt owed to their Madam] for them and get married to them. It’s a lie, they are all lies. I am advising them not to go. It’s a very wrong decision, to go.”
Sex trafficking advocate, ‘Jennifer,’ shares her story as well as her hopes and dreams for the future. Pathfinders is honoured to have journeyed with her from victim to survivor to advocate. She is now a small business owner and teacher, specializing in bead and custom jewelry making. Here is her story:
“My name is Jennifer. I am twenty-three (23) years old. I went to Russia in the year 2013. My madam took me there to be prostituted, of which is common among Nigerian girls over there. When I got there, I worked for a period of three (3) years, after which I became pregnant and returned back to Nigeria. No one forced me to leave Nigeria. However, I was told that there is a lot of money over there in Russia and that I would only need to sit at home and money would be bundled to me. That was the reason why I decided to travel overseas, as there were also other people doing the same thing.
Previously, when I was in Nigeria, I was in school before the idea of traveling abroad was presented to me. Upon returning to Nigeria, it was my plan, one year after I had the baby, to travel again so I could make money to support myself. I would likely have traveled overseas to Italy. It is the group of people called PathFinders that came to my aid. They helped me. If not for them, maybe I would have left for Italy. They helped me. They pay for my baby’s crèche, they provide me with housing and pay the rent. It’s their doing, ever since then. Everything has happened because of their support. With [Pathfinders], I began learning how to become a hairdresser and how to craft beads. They helped me learn all those skills.
I hope to be a better person, to make all things right. I hope to make everything okay, well balanced, unlike the first time. The mistake I made at first, I do not want make that kind of mistake again. The only advice I have to give others like me is, I plead, in an instance where they are brought back or they decide to come back, let them not say, “oh! I want to go back abroad again.” Let them at least learn something, become madams of their own. At least, let them not think that all hope is lost. Let them not think that it is only abroad they can make that amount of money. Let them be patient.”
To support either survivor on her journey to sustainable financial freedom, please email email@example.com.