By Ahmed Balarabe
Human trafficking involving Nigerian girls that are taken out of the country with promises of lucrative jobs that turn out to be sex slavery or forced labour in West African and European countries is a problem that still exists.
Media reports suggest that rather than abating, the problem seems to be assuming new dimensions every day.
Just recently, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, was on Channels Television to talk about a group of Nigerian girls that were stranded in Lebanon and had to take refuge at the Nigerian Embassy in Beirut.
What appeared to be good news about the girls was that at the time of the report, the embassy was making plans to repatriate them back home.
There was no indication about whether the girls left Nigeria on their own volition in search of the proverbial green pastures or were taken out of the country with promises of jobs only to find themselves in situations that made their return home a compelling necessity – a choice between life and death.
It is safe to say that there are thousands of Nigerian girls abroad in similar situations who do not have the opportunity to return to their country.
Stories like the one under reference and numerous others that don’t find their way into the media have encouraged the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to think outside the box in coming up with a campaign tagged Not for Sale.
The campaign focuses on inspiring and empowering young women in Edo and Delta states, the two states with the highest number of girls trafficked into sex and domestic slavery.
The girls are forced to achieve success on their own terms without having to pay the price some of their compatriots pay trying to look for success outside the country.
The campaign involves highlighting and promoting opportunities within the country that could be positively leveraged for success by these young girls.
The campaign particularly emphasises that young girls can find success in their country and therefore do not need to embark on the high-risk journey of going abroad in search of that success.
As an initiative, ‘Not for Sale’ is perhaps the most innovative programme to be embarked upon by any government agency, whether at the federal or state levels, to address the hydra-headed monster of human trafficking.
Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it does not only seek to discourage girls from embarking on the often-fruitless journey in search of success outside the shores of the country but also enlightening them to seeing the much-needed alternatives available to succeed at home.
The attempt to discourage these young women from travelling abroad to look for means of survival often fails to yield results due to the lack of satisfactory answers to the question about alternatives at home.
The justification for the near exodus of the country’s youth to foreign countries has often been that they would see no need to embark on such trips if there were better means of survival in the country.
Now, ‘Not for Sale’ is providing answers to these questions. The success stories of four young women in various fields from Edo and Delta states, named, Gift, Gladys, Blessing, and Latifah should serve as positive inspiration for girls in those two states to believe that opportunities for success abound at home.
The story of Gift, who could not make it beyond Libya where she was a victim of sexual abuse and torture before being brought back home, should make plain the fact that there is no place like home.
The common message the four young women in Not for Sale convey is simply that if they could succeed in their respective states, so can others.
NAPTIP’s initiative cannot succeed in addressing the problem of human trafficking if it begins and ends with girls alone.
What the agency is doing in Edo and Delta states, can effectively touch the lives of all the young girls in those two states in need of assistance.
The success of the campaign lies in its replication in all states, regardless of whether or not there are stories of trafficking.
Girls all over the country face the same situations that drive some into the search for success abroad. Governments at state and local levels should adopt the initiative by implementing programmes that target training and empowerment of young women, to enable them to achieve the success that others put their lives on the line travelling abroad to seek.
That is the only way the Not for Sale campaign can achieve the objectives for which it was introduced.
Julie Okah-Donli, Director-General of NAPTIP, said as much at the launch of the campaign held in Abuja last year when she explained that, “The Not for sale campaign provides a visible platform for stakeholders within the various states and communities to forge common ground in enlightening vulnerable young women in our society on the potential dangers of buying into false promises of a better life abroad, which range from involuntary servitude to rape, forced marriages and has cost many women their lives”.
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