A new life for Jane
By Francis N. Nwosu
Abuja, Nigeria, 2006 - Jane*, 15, is eager to get beyond her painful past. Jane was a victim of child trafficking, a widespread phenomenon in Nigeria. She was taken away from her village and trafficked to Gabon, via Cameroon.
“I was only eight years old at the time,” she says. “A woman that we knew took me away while my mother was ill in the hospital. I was a child, and I had no choice but to follow her”.
“We spent two days at sea before reaching Cameroon and later Gabon, where she handed me over to a friend of hers,” remembers Jane. “After about one month, she took me to her house where I met my sister, who had been taken from our home some months earlier.’’
Jane’s experience was no different from that of thousands children who are victims of trafficking in Nigeria every year. She was abused, exploited, and refused education and care. She had to work, selling items like cigarettes, kola-nuts and liquor at a street corner.
“My two years with the woman in Gabon were painful. We were not allowed to go to school while her children were able to get an education. We had no clothes and wore tattered dresses and we were very often beaten and denied food. When we were offered meals, they were leftovers, and the quantity was often measured in proportion with the money we made from the day’s sales.’’
Jane and her sister were also engaged in domestic chores, including laundry and cooking for the woman’s family. “My sister and I lived under forced labour and the harsh treatment inflicted on us attracted the attention of a neighbour who called in the police to come to our rescue.’’
Jane’s case was reported to the Nigerian embassy in Libreville, Gabon, which facilitated the intervention of the Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF); a UNICEF-assisted NGO engaged in the rehabilitation of girls trafficked abroad for either forced labour or prostitution.
Eventually, Jane and five other Nigerian kids were rescued and flown home. It was the end of her nightmare. Although she re-established contact with her mother and siblings, WOTCLEF found out that it would not be possible to send Jane back home, given the difficult situation of her family.
Instead, Jane and her sister remained in the NGO’s shelter in Abuja, where she presently lives with 13 other children. WOTCLEF is also supporting her education and these days Jane is a high school student.
With UNICEF support, NGOs like WOTCLEF have joined to create a Network of NGOs against Child Trafficking Abuse and Labour in Nigeria. Together with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons created in 2003, they have supported public awareness campaigns against human trafficking in Nigeria. They also act as a surveillance system to report cases of trafficking and to identify and prosecute traffickers.
The network has been actively protecting the victims of this illicit trade by establishing rehabilitation centres and providing education and vocational training to enable children to acquire the necessary skills to make a living.
“I am better off today, thanks to WOTCLEF and UNICEF and other individuals”, says Jane. “They have given me the opportunity to start a new life.”
*Name has been changed to protect her identity.