Tuesday, April 19, 2016


This rape joke by a Presidential candidate is making me so emotional. So here it goes.
This is a translated excerpt from a speech of a Mayor running for President about a rape victim: "I looked at the face, (swears) she's like a beautiful actress from America. (Swears) what a pity. What went on in my mind was, 'they raped her,  lined up for her.' I got mad because she was raped? Yes. That's one. But she's so beautiful. The Mayor should have been first. What a pity."  

It was a joke, the Mayor said after receiving flak from women and women's groups for making this statement about an Australian woman missionary raped in his city that went viral. 

I once thought that what he has done for his city is admirable. He fought rebels where ruling administrations had difficulty fighting. He had a reputation of supporting extrajudicial killings. Criminals feared him. His word was law and people followed. Whatever his flaws, I thought his track record of making his city clean and peaceful would have made up for them. But after pictures and videos showing his behavior with females in public came out, his hand touching/holding women in a manner that strangers normally  wouldn't, wanting to kiss them on the lips, and now his "joke" that the Mayor (implying himself) should have been first on the woman raped, made me completely turn around on my opinion of him. It was degrading how he objectified women. 

If he cannot lead by example that women should be treated with respect, then how can he possibly impose laws on sexual harassment or violence against women when he himself expresses acts that constitute and can even encourage others to think that sexual harassment or violence against women can be taken lightly? Rape is no joking matter and just because there are local ordinances existing or were first implemented in his city to protect women does not mean he supports women's rights but can joke about rape with triviality.

What saddens me even more is that the women's group who strongly advocates for women's rights and demanded him to apologize for his rape "joke" (which as of this writing he refused to do stating there is nothing to apologize for) is reported to still continue to support his candidacy. This kind of support made me question myself. 
Did I discern wrongly? Should I just close my eyes and throw out the window what I've always believed in and did volunteer work for all these years? If a strong women's group still continues to support his candidacy and will forego of his rape joke and vote for him why can't I? Some say he is a better choice over other candidates with reputations of being corrupt, weak and easily swayed, sickly, indecisive, etc. Who doesn't have flaws, they said. I'm sure their reputation, track record, strengths and weaknesses have been compared. 

Presidents will come and go and we have to keep moving on and continue to live our own lives. Change has to start with us, not with a President every six years. At the end of the day, we all have to live with our conscience and I would rather follow mine. I cannot in conscience vote for someone who thinks  rape can be taken lightly and joked about. So there. 


Monday, December 07, 2015

"TODAY will never come again... Be a blessing. Be a friend. TAKE TIME TO CARE." - via THINK DIFFERENT
Just a quote to remind me that I can be strong...that I AM strong.

"I always told you that you are a strong woman and I always meant it, so I hope you started to believe in yourself..you can make it, everything you want, just believe in it and yourself. And my hopes and wishes for you are coming from my heart."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Social Ills...

"Babies for Sale" - is it just greed or dire need to survive that people can go so low as to steal babies or "breed" baby farms to sell them once they are born? It's nothing new these days. From Africa to Asian countries like the Philippines, Cambodia, India or Thailand, children are sold in exchange for money, to pay off debts or some other reason. A tv documentary in Manila recently featured two women whose newborn babies were stolen from a hospital. In Nigeria, a "baby farm" was raided where several women and babies were rescued by authorities. Young pregnant girls were being kept in the hospital or clinic until they gave birth and the babies were sold to the highest bidder. Babies stolen is one thing, but actually maintaining clinics or hospitals as "baby farms" to "breed" children for the purpose of selling them is just horrific. These children have no chance of defending themselves in their innocence.

Criminals continue to "innovate" and come up with other forms of crime, one more inhumane than another. Will they all end one day? I wonder. The social ills seem to be limitless. But as long as there are good hearts who persevere to put an end to the evils around us, each child man and woman victimized by greed and violence will have a chance of starting life anew. It often takes a concerted effort to be heard and for action to be taken. It's sad that many have to lose so much, sometimes even their very lives for this to happen.But we should never give up.We just could not. It is their only chance to be saved from being victims of our society's social ills..

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Taking A Stand…

Sapna and Malala… two teenage girls from India and Pakistan who both took a stand for what they believed in. Sapna said no to an early marriage while Malala refused to cow down to Taliban threats and struggled to gain an education, advocating that girls should have access to education.

How far would you go to make a stand for what you strongly believe in?

“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one.” – Malala Yousafzai
When 14-year old Malala from Pakistan was shot by the Taliban for openly advocating education for girls, the world was shocked and in uproar at the barbaric attempt to silence her for fighting for girls’ rights to education.

Living at Swat Valley where the Taliban has at times banned girls from attending school, Malala took to blogging under a pseudonym to tell the world of the plight of girls in her valley and the Taliban's attempt to take control. She has gained media coverage and accepted interviews from local and international press. She has since then been nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize  by Desmond Tutu and won Pakistan's first International Children's Peace Prize. 

Malala’s advocacy almost caused her her life. Though she has started standing up with assistance, she is still unable to talk and only communicates by writing. She continues to slowly recover in a British hospital but she isn’t over the woods yet..she is still physically in critical condition and her life is still in danger from the Taliban who vowed to try killing her again. Extremists continue in their attempt to smear Malala’s name claiming she works for and is in connivance with the United States.  She knew she could be paying a great price for what she is standing up for but she never looked back. She is fighting for what she believes in and her action has only strengthened the resolve on many that girls have a right to an education as anyone else and should not be deprived of it.

“I’ll tell my neighbors that child marriage is against the law and they should educate their children.” – Sapna
In Sapna’s village, teenage girls were expected to be married by the age of eighteen. But Sapna had other plans. She wanted an education. She wanted to work and earn a living…then get married.  So when she heard her parents talking about getting her married off, she drummed up enough courage to tell her parents and grandfather who raised her that she wanted to study first and not get married. Sapna’s lucky. She has a supportive family. They listened. They understood. They supported her decision. Now her village is abuzz. Now other parents would tell her parents and grandfather whenever they would meet them at the village that they too would not get their daughters married before they are eighteen. 

One little girl’s dream to have an education. One little girl who bravely took a stand for what she wanted and believed in, and helped change the outlook of elders in her community.  Now they too would want their daughters to go to school and have an education. They too would not want to marry off their daughters before they’re eighteen.

Two teenage girls Sapna and Malala, who both took a stand to be educated, now they are making a difference in shaping the future of girls in their country…


Malala - http://youtu.be/25wW4hwk8Gk
Sapna   - http://youtu.be/2qhbdGxDrxI

Sunday, September 23, 2012


It was good news that the SpecialCourt for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague sentenced former Liberian PresidentCharles Taylor to a jail-term of 50 years, the first African President to beprosecuted in an international court. He was convicted of aiding and abettingthe commission of serious crimes in Sierra Leone and planning attacks onvarious towns. He was also accused of assisting theRevolutionary United Front, a rebel group, in the recruitment of child soldiers, rape and sexual slavery. I find this man’s rise to the Presidencyin 1997, such a wonder. Why a man of his past record of atrocities and abuses onhis own people was even elected President of Liberia with 75% of the votes inhis favor is such a wonder. The election was even described as “one of thecleanest” (or should it be a wonder with graft and corruption existing in everycountry). Maybe his campaign slogan "He killed myma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him" was a warning to voters notto vote otherwise. Nevertheless, after so many years, the verdict on his crimeshas come out...guilty.

Though the crimes may bedifferent, I can somehow relate this to the political situation here. Twoformer Presidents ousted, the first one, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, oustedby peaceful people power, for abuses, political oppression, graft andcorruption during his more than 20 years of dictatorship; a second one,Ex-President Joseph Estrada, impeached for plunder, though granted pardon yearslater by the President who replaced him, ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Sheherself is now facing plunder charges.

The late Egyptian PresidentHosni Mubarak resignedafter nearly 30 years of holding power. He was charged with corruption and thekilling of demonstrators. He wenton trial in August 2011 and was convicted to life in prison in June 2012 but died shortly from aheart attack.
The justice process can takelong. Judgment can take years, because gathering evidence and capturing themcan also take years. In Taylor’s case, it took 4 years of hearings before hewas convicted.

It is so true that goodgovernance is so wanting worldwide. History has shown that world leaders couldnot hold on to their conviction and ideals of becoming good leaders. Somewhere,if it hasn’t been their plan all along to enrich and glue themselves in power,the sparkle of power and greed ends up consuming them. Like others blinded byfame and fortune, at some point, they lose track of reality. They crave formore of that sparkle and power, forgetting they have an obligation to give backwhat they have committed to the public that put them where they are.   

Thejudgment on people like Charles Taylor, Hosni Mubarak, and the ousting orforced resignation of other leaders due to political and sex scandals, graftand corruption send a clear message. Heads of state will be held to account fortheir crimes, because *“withleadership, come not just power and authority, but also responsibility andaccountability.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Satyameva Jayate (“Only Truth Prevails”)

I’m writing this article on an Indian tv show called *Satyameva Jayate" because many of the social issues raised are what I personally can relate with. They are the same issues that concern me as a woman and as a responsible citizen who wants to make this world a better and safer place to live in for the children of the future.  They are social ills in society not only in a country like India but even in many other so-called modern countries of this world. The same issues that drove me to do volunteer work for NGOs like Deltawomen, World Pulse and Youth Leader Magazine.

I will veer away from the personalities involved or the motives implied by some critics on the people behind the show. I am an observer from a very distant place connected through technology of the internet. And to me, awareness does make a difference. It can make people question their own morals and move them to action. It can make them change or want change.

The show has so far highlighted sensitive social issues prevailing in India such as female foeticides, child sexual abuse, dowry, medical malpractice, honor killings, physical disabilities, domestic violence, pesticide poisoning and alcoholism.

If there is one sure way to gain media mileage and awareness on these issues, it would be to touch the chords of the viewers’ hearts and this show has done that in the episodes I’ve watched. Wouldn’t you be when you see a mother recounting her horrid experience on female foeticide where she was forcibly made to abort the baby in her womb not three or five times but eight times by her own husband and even female in-laws for the  simple reason that the child’s sex was female? Or when a mother tells her story of how a well-dressed, educated-looking woman spat on her baby with skin disease simply because she found the baby ugly and shameful for the mother to carry her around in public?

Whether the show will move people enough to take action on a bigger scale remains to be seen.  It has undoubtedly created awareness and has moved people to take action and try to do something about these social ills.

What is significant to note is the finding in one of  the surveys that such acts are not just committed by the rural, tribal, poor, or illiterate people, but were in fact also among the educated, even wealthy and professional class in society.  How our simple minds can sometimes easily associate such horrors to the less fortunate because they don’t have enough education or wealth and therefore stereotyped as unable to understand what is acceptable, moral or just, is sad. Nothing could be farther from the truth and this show had revealed that. There are in fact professionals conniving to commit such horrid acts of female foeticide on their own relatives. But what can really be disheartening is when the authorities or experts expected to be help save lives and bring forth justice seem to avoid that responsibility as well. Is it because that they themselves believe the crime is justified?  

What’s important is that the show has helped spread awareness, the stories are not told in whispers and the victims have been emboldened to speak of their plight. Now more people in the world know, and the victims have to somehow be given the justice they deserve and be compensated for their sufferings, and hopefully not exploited for profit.

I’m looking forward to watching an even more sensitive issue tackled in the show...human trafficking. It can indeed be something more dangerous for victims to come out when such activities can be highly organized up to an international level.  

I end this article with a quoted poem on Satyameva Jayate:

Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood.
Through truth the divine path is spread out by which
the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled,
reach where that supreme treasure of Truth resides.”

*  (“Satyameva Jayate” when translated means “Only Truth Prevails” or “Truth Alone Triumphs” a Hindu mantra from the ancient scripture Mundaka Upanishad. The slogan was popularized by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya in 1918 when serving his second of four terms as President of the Indian National Congress. (source: Wikipedia)

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Slum Tourism...Ethical, Exploitative or Aid? (via Deltawomen)

(Favela do Metro shantytown in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
(Victor R Caivano/Associated Press Via Passport Blog) 
(Slum Tour signage in Dharavi India)
Slum Tourism...one Slum Tour organizer justifies it by saying travellers come to see the differences from the way they live themselves,” and they “show some good examples of the community.” Another says that “Today poverty tourism is practiced all over the world.” Other organizers say it “raises awareness and brings aid to the destitute of the city.” So is “creating awareness” via slum tours something to be tolerated and accepted because people pay to take pictures of how the slum dwellers live? Would letting it continue eventually help take the slum dwellers away from their impoverished “habitat?” Or would the tour organizers try to “preserve” that habitat and its dwellers to keep making money?

Exploitation was the first thought that came to mind when I read about slum tourism being a phenomenon. People were clearly making profits from the slum tours at the expense of the slum dwellers whose private lives and dire situation are exposed to visitors who want to take pictures of the “realities of life.” Aren’t the media and NGOs already doing that without “collecting payment” for people to be made aware of the slum dwellers’ situation? 

The practice had long been in existence but only came to public scrutiny when the first article on slum tourism was published in the New York Times in March 2008 (NYTimes Weiner, 2009).

Slum tourism isn’t an impromptu act of touring or visiting the slum areas. These are well-organized tours run by profit-making companies or tour agencies complete with websites and tour itineraries of what tourists expect from the tour. These are organizers where most do not donate money back from proceeds into the slum communities they visit.

I wonder if these agencies even bothered to ask the slum residents’ permission to have their private lives exposed for tourism. While some may be in such dire strait as to accept anything including exposure of their private lives for a fee, others suffer the humiliation of having their lives put on display to tourists. Thus, these tours have often been branded as “exploitative, voyeuristic, and imperialistic.” For slum tour operators to justify their trade as “trying to educate tourists about the realities of poverty and are helping to dispel negative stereotypes surrounding slums” is something I personally find pathetic. Though some operators claim to have used tour revenues to build schools or community centers in the slum areas, many get a regular fee from the tours, while the slum residents who the operators benefit from can hardly say that they also regularly benefit from the intrusion on their privacy.  Some operators simply “hope” that the tourists would donate funds to help the residents after seeing the living conditions. The guaranty of getting donations is not absolute. To me, if help you must, then help without taking but give something in return to the community and not simply hope that the tourists would. The community must be involved or the motive becomes subject to criticism and scrutiny.

There are slum tours that focus on cultural or entertainment tours. Cultural tours show how slum residents live their lives and how the slum community functions. Entertainment tours focus on a “safari”-like experience where vehicles take tourists around in open-roof, army-style jeeps or motorcycle ride through the slum areas (source: http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1011&context=uhf_2010). 

The description being likened to an African safari trip of watching and taking pictures of wild animals from a distance is not hard to miss. It is the focus on poverty and how it is conducted in a safari-like manner as if the slum dwellers’ “habitat” were of wild animals that earned the slum tours wide criticism. The focus on the cultural education for tourists is lost and what is magnified is the profit made by organizers at the slum dwellers’ expense. The “safari experience” offered by tour organizers makes me agree with Wardah Hafidz statement, an activist with the Urban Poor Consortium: “It's not about shame. People should not be exhibited like monkeys in the zoo. What residents get from these tours, in cash or whatever form, only strips them of their dignity and self respect, turning them into mere beggars (source: 'Slum tourism' treads between aid and exploitation’ - http://www.rappler.com/world/6268-slum-tourism-treads-between-aid-and-exploitation).

Slum tour organizers and operators however, claim to be corroborating with local NGOs to help slum dwellers benefit from the tours. Many of them say they give back to the communities they visit. Some give money to children’s education centers, children’s projects, schools, in these slum communities. In India, for instance, Reality Tours and Travel in Mumbai set up its own charitable organization, which runs a community centre, kindergarten and cricket program in the slum of Dharavi, according to Chris Way, founder of Reality Tours and Travel.  According to Way’s estimate, “nearly 40 percent of this, or approximately US$23,000, will go back into Dharavi through Reality Gives’ programs -- money the community wouldn’t see otherwise.” The website is complete with an itinerary and cost depending on the type of tour ranging from Rs500 per person to Rs6,800 for five persons. It also shows off the charity organization’s various projects in Dharavi which is part of the tour itinerary.  In Indonesia, each tourist pays 500,000 rupiah ($54) "Jakarta Hidden Tours" to visit, with half of that going to the tour company, and the rest funding doctor visits, microfinance projects or community projects such as school building.

In Brazil, Marcelo Armstrong, who started Favela Tour in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, said his company gives money to a children’s education centre. To further lend credence to the claim that the slum tours are not exploitative, the companies (Reality Tours and Favela Tour) limit picture-taking and only allow tourists to take out their cameras at certain times. (source: The Passport Blog: http://www.bbc.com/travel/blog/20120307-ethical-traveller-do-slum-tours-profit-off-the-poor).

But have these slum tours really done good for the community? In India, the number of people living in slums has more than doubled in the past two decades and now exceeds the entire population of Britain, the Indian Government has announced.  The number of people living in slums was projected to rise to 93 million in 2011 or 7.75 percent of the total population, almost double the population of Britain. Census data released in December 2011 by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) shows that in 2010, about 6% of the population lived in slums in Brazil. It means that 11.4 million of the 190 million people lived in the country areas of irregular occupation and lack of public services or urbanization - called by the IBGE of "subnormal agglomerations"  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/slum).

Many governments around the world have attempted and continue to try to solve the problems of slums through relocation and construction of better living conditions and sanitation. Often, this causes displacement and violence when slum areas are cleared and the residents find themselves distanced from their main source of livelihood, schools or clinics.  Despite the offer of a better housing, better sanitation and their own land, the slum residents return to where they can earn money for their day-to-day survival.  (See, for example, Abahlali baseMjondolo in Durban, South Africa.

That slum tourism exists and is a phenomenon cannot be argued with. These are facts that have to be accepted...and there are people who make money from it. Some maybe there for the intent of also creating awareness but it cannot be discounted that others are there simply for the profit at the expense of the impoverished. What is essential is for governments, NGOs and communities to address any possibility of exploitation and profiteering and be closely involved in ensuring that the slum dwellers do not suffer from intrusion of their private lives from greedy profit-makers without conscience. The community must be involved.

1)  A Trip into the Controversy: A Study of Slum Tourism Travel Motivations http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1011&context=uhf_2010

2)  Rappler: 'Slum tourism' treads between aid and exploitation’ - http://www.rappler.com/world/6268-slum-tourism-treads-between-aid-and-exploitation

3)  The Passport Blog:  http://www.bbc.com/travel/blog/20120307-ethical-traveller-do-slum-tours-profit-off-the-poor     

4)  Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/slum    

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Agent Orange...Turning a Blind Eye?

The Monsanto Corporation, maker of the Agent Orange used during the1961 to 1975 Vietnam War which affected over 2million people, has again been causing a stir lately.

In Argentina, a suit was filed against Monsanto by several Argentinian tobacco farmers who say that the company knowingly poisoned them with herbicides and pesticides that subsequently caused ”devastating birth defects” in their children. The farmers are also suing many big tobacco companies that they said required them to use herbicides and pesticides.

In the US, a coalition of concerned members of America’s agriculture community and over 2,000 farmers and others within the food industry are threatening to take the US government to court to make sure the feds investigate the potential outcome of a new genetically modified crop. Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemicals, another producer of Agent Orange have teamed up in what some described as “a match made in hell.” They are two of the world's leading producers of agro-chemicals and have joined forces to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2, 4-D, one-half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange.

Ironic that the Vietnamese government has been recently dealing with Monsanto to bring in genetically modified seeds that could “boost crop yields.” Though Vietnam’s purpose may be strictly agricultural, Monsanto’s Roundup, an herbicide with the active ingredient glyphosate that researchers have said kills human kidney cells, is the same chemical found in Agent Orange. It is said to work by being absorbed into a plant’s leaves and entering the sap system. From there, it works its way down to the roots where it begins to quickly kill the plant. Though Monsanto claims that Roundup is only active in plants, and that it becomes inactive once it touches the soil, Mansanto was convicted in France for false advertising in 2007 for its claims that Roundup was biodegradable and left the soil “clean.”

I suppose memories are short and the Agent Orange aftermath can easily be forgotten by a government whose millions of citizens suffered and are still suffering from it. Or maybe the practical aspect of feeding a growing nation made the decision easier to just forget the past. Whatever, the reason, I know I could not forget what I saw when I visited the War Remnant Museum in Saigon 2 years ago. The “remnants” left a vivid reminder of how the Vietnam War affected millions of innocent people. They were not just war artifacts. They were pictures of the devastating effects of Agent Orange on people who were directly or indirectly exposed to the substance. Disfigured men, women and children, Vietnamese and American, civilians and soldiers alike, some without limbs, with down syndrome, different forms of mental or physical defect, unborn fetus that never would have had the chance to survive with the obvious physical defects they had. It was a horrific experience just to look at them and I had to keep myself from crying and being so emotional. I could not imagine such atrocity. My friend who took me there was probably unaware that walking around at a distance from her made it easier for me because there was no need to talk about what I felt when I saw the pictures.

Visiting the Mái ấm Phan Sinh months later, a Home for the Disabled, showed living proof of the Agent Orange victims. You can imagine what it felt like up close seeing these children, some helplessly lying on the floor making loud moans, their only expression of what may be happiness at seeing visitors. They’ve been abandoned by their families who didn’t want them or couldn’t afford to take care of them.

The Philippines is no exception. It has been dealing with Monsanto for over 30 years and there are records of farmer protests over the use of Monsanto products. In early 2011, the Bureau of Plant Industry approved the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), food crops (including corn, soybean, sugar beet, alfalfa, potato, and cotton) for direct use in food, feed, and processing. 24 of the 29 GMOs approved are owned by Monsanto. The sale in the Philippines of YG2RRC2 which has contents of the Roundup herbicide, started in May 2011. This was supposedly after “rigorous regulated field trials for almost three years” in several locations across the country. I don’t know if that statement should give me a sense of comfort when the use of RoundUp herbicide which “kills weeds but not the biotech corn,” is the same chemical used in Agent Orange.

While one has to acknowledge the need for progress and to provide for the growing population, there is as much responsibility for every government and suppliers like Monsanto and Dow to look out for the people’s welfare and make sure people are protected and not exposed to health and environmental hazards. Transparency, proper information and training on the use and effects of such chemicals are critical in protecting the direct and end-users, and environment as a whole, especially in areas where farmers are not literate enough to read or write and understand the warning contents of chemicals. What’s as important is accountability for the consequences of exposure to these substances.

While scientific development is important, lives are even more important. They (governments and suppliers like Monsanto and Dow) cannot...should not turn a blind eye and say there is no scientific evidence that indicates Agent Orange/Roundup herbicide is not the cause of serious long-term health effects. The Vietnam disaster with living proof of the victims of Agent Orange and the 2007 conviction in France for falsely advertising the effects of the Roundup herbicide support the argument that herbicides can and do have adverse effects. Accountability does not end in the sale of these products alone. Unfortunately, there are always technicalities, legal or otherwise that hinder the truth from coming out.

To this day, the class suit filed by over 200,000 American soldiers and millions of Vietnamese through the VieItnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA), has not been resolved. The 4.8 million Vietnamese people exposed to Agent Orange, which resulted in 400,000 people being killed or maimed, at least 150,000 children born with birth defects, and 500,000 children born with birth defects (Wikipedia) still have to get the justice that has been deprived them for so long. . Maybe one day...when moral conscience and justice would rule over profit and personal interests, the victims will get their justice and not just be considered "collateral damage."

Sunday, April 08, 2012


sharing an article I wrote forDeltawomen...


Human trafficking has become innovative over the years. With classified advertising websites like Backpage.com, traffickers were afforded a channel to peddle their “commodities” in the safety of their hideouts while their victims stayed locked in a hotel helplessly waiting for their customer, and the next, and the next, and the next.  So it’s no wonder that Backpage.com earns more than $22 million annually from prostitution ads in the United States, as reported by AIM Group, a media research and consulting company.

You can imagine my shock as I went through several articles on human trafficking and read a 2008 article about “baby farms” or “factories” in Nigeria where babies were “bred” to be eventually sold.
Teenagers with unwanted pregnancies were reportedly lured in illegal or unregistered  maternity clinics or hospitals then locked up until they gave birth. They were then forced to give up their babies for a fee of around 20 000 naira ($170). Some were raped while detained there. There were some who had been staying there for years and allowed themselves to be impregnated to later sell their babies. Dire poverty and need to survive pushed some of these girls to be “breeders.” The babies were sold to buyers from 300 000 and 450 000 naira ($2 500 and $3 800) each. Some were sold to legitimate couples who wanted children. Other babies weren’t as lucky. They were sold as offering in rituals to later be killed.    
In the U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report in 2009, Nigeria was described as a “source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.”  Like other countries where poverty is prevalent, Nigerians were trafficked to destinations outside Africa like Italy, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom (recent news from a high ranking British government official acknowledged the growing problem on human trafficking in the U.K.).It was reported that an increasing number of young girls claiming asylum in the United Kingdom were trafficked. The UNICEF estimated between 50,000 and 70,000 African females trafficked to Italy for prostitution, of whom 70 percent were from Nigeria.

It’s amazing that thousands of these trafficked children reach other countries as unaccompanied minors. I wonder what the immigration people ask the unaccompanied minors or the adults meeting them before they were allowed entry into the country. The children probably didn’t even speak the country’s local language. 

Trafficking has been so organized over the years that criminals can systematically recruit people, often involving relatives or persons already known to the victims. Traffickers resort to deceit with promises of education, training, and pay, only to have all these promises taken away once the victims leave their families.

As I continued to go through more articles, the answers to the common causes of trafficking are all too familiar - victim of war, poverty, gender inequality, lack of information, high demand for cheap labour, or lack of opportunities where they live. 

The victims are clearly denied their basic human rights and become exposed to serious health hazards because of the sex trade they are trapped in. They risk getting inflicted with infectious diseases, tortured into submission, drug and alcohol addictions, depression and other mental health problems as a result of their traumatic experience.  And because some have an illegal status, reported cases and convictions of traffickers either do not prosper, or never get reported at all.

However, the growing international awareness that human trafficking is a global problem crossing borders has moved governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations to take broader and tougher action against human trafficking.

Several agencies and NGOs in Nigeria related to anti-trafficking were organized to address the problem:

  • The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – International (CATW)  which promotes women’s human rights by working internationally in the fight against sexual exploitation
  • The National Council of Women Societies (NCWS)
  • Women Trafficking and Child Labor Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF)
  • National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), a 585-employee agency nationwide with 109 investigators and 27 prosecutors dedicated to anti-trafficking
  • NPF, established in 2005, staffed 22 units in states with the worst trafficking problems
  • The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) also has anti-trafficking units to monitor illegal entries
  • National Plan of Action (NPA) on Trafficking In Persons, covers research, prevention, prosecution, and protection of victims through collaborative actions with government, law enforcement agencies, the legislature, and NGOs.
Much-needed collaboration across countries was recognized to combat the growing problem.
With this international collaboration among law enforcement agencies in place, there had been more successes in getting a clearer picture of the systematic mobilization of trafficked victims across borders. This aids the enforcement agencies in determining key locations of contact points where trafficked victims are “handed over” (The illustration below shows how human trafficking crosses some borders), and apprehending the culprits.

(Trafficking in Women from Nigeria to Europe)

In closing, it is a known fact that human trafficking is an old trade. It thrives because it’s a lucrative business for people who engage in it regardless of the mental, emotional and physical trauma inflicted on the victims. But with strict imposition of the law, collaborative cooperation of agencies and NGOs across borders, and as importantly, availability of programs to educate and make them self-sufficient enough not to want to venture or send children to unknown places, or programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate victims, we can make this world a better and more secure place to live in.

  1. Babies bred for sale in Nigeria - ENUGU, NIGERIA - Nov 09 2008 09:13