Isoke Aikpitanyi is one of the many victims of human trafficking. She was able to run away from a world of abuse, and now spends her energy to work for other victims. She has become well known in Italy for her courage to denounce perpetrators and the awareness campaigns she runs. She wrote to Southworld to give her testimony.
I was born in Benin City, Nigeria, 32 years ago, and I have been living in Italy since 2000. I left Nigeria to try and improve the quality of my life and help financially my family back at home. I was offered a job in a European supermarket and I immediately I caught the opportunity. I did that without realizing that I was being deceived and had become, for all matter, a slave. I tried to rebel, but I found no support. This is how, for two years, I was coerced into prostitution. I finally decided to say enough is enough. That very evening, when I faced the “ maman”, I was attacked and nearly killed. I survived miraculously and after three days in a coma and three months of convalescence, I began trying to piece together my life.
My partner, Claudio, in an attempt to help me, had begun to weave a web of social actions against human trafficking. I continued to do what he and his friends had done for me and the other girls: welcome, support and accompany young Nigerian victims of trafficking in what is now known as “The house of Isoke”. It is not exactly a structure … is the home of Isoke.
The principle that inspires my work – free and self-financed – is to accept these ladies without ifs and buts. This is something that many people could do if only they wanted to, and if only the law would allow it …
In Italy, tThe law, unfortunately, does not provide support for girls who denounce the traffickers. Many Nigerian girls would do that, but they cannot for the lack of follow-up actions. Who will defend the families threatened by the trafficking cartel? Who will defend the girls themselves since traffickers are either free or in jail for only a couple of years?
Some in society are annoyed because my commitment is a living example that more can be done, even by those who claim they are already doing too much. Nowadays, only one in ten victims escapes the traffickers and this is too little; especially because it is possible to do much more.
So it seems that I am against governments, against politicians, against the accredited services, I am seen as a rebel because I have the arrogance to work and get results and write books without being an intellectual, an expert, a professional operator. All said and done, I am left alone and since I now am the spokesperson of an association of victims and former victims – and many Nigerian girls have imitated my example – they leave me and them out in the cold. In reality, I realize that many cannot accept the idea that women can help other women even though they are not professionals or with a specific role in some recognized institution, but simply as a former victim to victim.
I do not see big changes in Europe, politicians and the media speak of the problem of human trafficking when it pleases them, most countries give but a glimpse to this reality. I get much attention in Italy I get, actually, a lot of attention in Italy because I get invited at public events, conferences, etc. All this is very heavy for me. Some might believe that I write and present my books, when writing is only a tool for self-financing. Besides, books and articles give me the chance to keep in contact with readers, and especially with the girls victim of the trade. I reach out to them trying to assist them in their search for a way out.
My commitment is certainly appreciated in many quarters, I cannot deny it, but I have not yet succeeded in actually changing things, and this after a decade spent focusing on this fight. I am no longer the young girl who arrived in Italy in 2000, yet I am still a victim of trafficking, an illegal, a black, a foreigner. I did not bother to build a security for my future; I prefer to spend my time and energy to reassure victims of human trafficking hat they are not alone. This is what I wished I was told when I needed it most.