Women in pieces

You must pay for all the evil you have done to me”, Joy repeats relentlessly, with tears in her eyes. The same phrase, overflowing from the swamp of suffering, fear, anger and pain that goes into it. She was repatriated to Lagos, Nigeria. She accepted this solution because she had no other choice. Joy went from Brescia to Rome, where she was hosted by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles, and welcomed by the Caritas listening centre. She also received a residence permit, yet she realized she had no future in Italy.

d2Erma Marinelli, a Sister who followed her for months at Caritas in Rome, is happy to meet her again in Lagos. “When she came to us, she made everyone crazy. She would scream and fall in a tantrum. We sent her to a psychologist. But she repeated: ‘I’m not crazy. You must pay for all the evil made to me’. We thought she had experienced violence in the street. We knew nothing of her life”. Joy said she worked as a caregiver, but she soon left the job. She was hosted by nuns, but then she went to work in the streets. What really ruined her life, even more than the life on the street, was the shame that has marked her forever. Sister Erma says: “It is likely that they forced her to act in a pornographic film. Occasionally, she alluded to it, screaming obscenities in anger, a tragedy from which she has never recovered”. Before returning to Nigeria, she enquired if the family would receive her with the little money she had (1,500 Euros). They said yes, and this was a liberation for her. She changed her attitude and regained some dignity. She could return knowing that someone was waiting. But nothing will ever be enough to compensate for all the evil she suffered”.
Something is surely broken also in Mary. d3 Beautiful, tall, wrapped in an elegant traditional dress, a sweet face, the 37 years old mother of three has spent eyes, she seems lost. She returned home four years ago, after eleven years in Italy. She left Nigeria to go to Italy to work. “I thought I was going to be a waitress or a hairdresser – she says – but …. ” She does not want to talk about her life on the street. Since she returned, the parents and relatives do not want to see her. Even the eldest daughter refuses her, only the two younger children are close to her. She now works as a cleaner in a library, but lives in a confused state, in constant need of medication.
Eric Okoje, lawyer, is among the founders of Cosudow, Committee to support the dignity of women, created by Nigerian religious. Although he has been working on this subject for over a decade, he still feels anger and indignation. “Why do we allow an entire generation of our young people to be enslaved? We need to fight with all our strength this evil, but it is not easy. There is a problem of poverty, of impunity and even loss of values. When foundations are gone, one cannot build anything, and hungry persons only listen to their stomach”.
Faith comes from a poor village in Ondo State. Like many, she trusted an uncle who promised to take her to Europe. She left in a group of 85 girls and 72 boys. Travelling on land, they crossed Niger and then the Sahara Desert. They ended up in Morocco. Faith remembers: “We stayed four months in the desert and nine months in Morocco. Three of us died during the crossing of the Sahara, one died in Morocco. I wanted to go back. I know that three more have died crossing the Mediterranean”. In Morocco, they were locked up in two rooms, one for boys and one for girls. “I did not want to become prostitute. I wanted to go back, but they would not let me go. I managed to escape and went to the police. The police mistreated and deported me to Nigeria. I found that my uncle was planning another trip and wanted me to go away again. This time I said no!”
d4Kathy was one of the first to return to Benin City in 2000. “My family was told that I could go to Europe to work. I arrived in Italy via France, and ended up in Rome. I was kept locked up in the house of a madam. One day, I was entrusted to another girl to take me to work. I guessed what it was. We were on a bus. Suddenly, I run away and took another bus. I did not know where I was going. When I heard a bell, I got out and looked for the church. I wanted to meet a priest. Two women helped me to find him. He took me to the embassy, but it was already closed. So he escorted me to a hostel run by Sisters”. With their help, Kathy was able to return to Benin City, resume her studies and graduate in business management. In 2010 year, she managed to get a degree in psychology. “Now I would like to help other girls who have experienced trafficking and have been less fortunate than me”.


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