|Ana, a Moldovan survivor of abuse and trafficking, holds her year-old daughter, for whom she hopes life will be better.|
By Tatiana Tibuleac
As the world marks the 200th anniversary of Britain’s abolition of the slave trade, the struggle against human trafficking, bonded labour and forcible military recruitment continues. Here is an account of one woman’s experience as a victim of trafficking.
CHISINAU, Moldova, 26 March 2007– Beaten throughout her childhood in Moldova, Ana, now 21, left home in despair at the age of 12. As a result, she became a victim of trafficking.
“If my father was just a little kinder, I would not have gone through this situation,” says Ana. “One day, when he severely beat me, harsher than usual, I decided to run away from home. I did not care where to. I just wanted to get away from pain. I was ready to work day and night, to live in the most difficult conditions.”
Years later, when Ana was pregnant, she still could not escape abuse. Even now, as the mother of a year-old daughter, she desperately fears being beaten.
Forced to beg on streets
Those who ‘helped’ her run away to a supposedly better life were traffickers. Seeing how helpless Ana was, several people from a neighbouring village offered her a job abroad. She was 12 at the time.
“I did not even ask where I was going,” recalls Ana. “I was promised a job and money for food. I was sure I was getting away from trouble. I even thought that I’d make some money, return home and help everyone, including my father.”
|Social assistant Natalia Pantea with children at the UNICEF-supported Materna Centre in Chisinau, Moldova.|
As soon as she arrived at her destination – which turned out to be Poland – Ana realized that none of the promises would be fulfilled. The traffickers forced her to beg on the streets. There were other girls from Moldova, Ukraine and Romania, as well. Every day they had to earn $100 dollars. They were severely beaten if they got less.
“I was beaten up even worse than at home,” says Ana. “I thought I would never escape violence.”
‘Any slap is followed by another’
Ana spent five years begging in Poland. She finally managed to escape and was returned home by the local police. Out of pity, her father did not beat her for a year. Gradually, her life improved, and she met the father of her future child.
“I was very happy when I found out that I was pregnant,” says Ana. “But he left me when I was six months pregnant. He never came back. My father started beating me up again. The fact that I was pregnant did not stop him. This is what hurt me most.”
After all she has been through, Ana has decided to bring up her daughter alone – and most important, never to let anyone abuse her again. “Any slap is followed by another one. If you accept the first slap, you accept all of them,” she asserts.
Family violence leads to trafficking
Ana’s story is like those of thousands of women in Moldova who have experienced domestic violence. In most instances, the ones abusing them are people they love – fathers, brothers, husbands or sons.
According to UNICEF studies on violence, beatings of children and women are a common practice used in many countries around the world to ‘keep order’ in the family.
In Moldova, 27 per cent of women over 15 years of age have experienced violence in the home at least once, according to the 2005 Demographic and Health Survey. Out of 1,706 victims of trafficking identified and assisted in Moldova between 2000 and 2005, 10 per cent were children and 70 per cent had experienced family violence.
Such violence is often a precursor to trafficking and exploitation.
Assistance to victims
For several months now, Ana and other women in similar situations have received assistance at the Materna Centre, in Chisinau. This UNICEF-supported service helps them rebuild their lives. Here Ana can bring up her daughter in peace and benefit from free food and accommodations.
Meanwhile, child protection specialists are trying to find a long-term solution for the young mother – including a home and a job.
“Victims of violence within the family are not aware of complaint mechanisms available to them. Specialized services for them remain limited,” says UNICEF Project Officer Viorica Cretu. “UNICEF is supporting the Government of Moldova's efforts in strengthening the system’s capacity to prevent and combat violence against children and women – and to provide necessary protection and assistance to victims.”
UN study urges action to stop violence [with video and audio]