Real Life Stories: People Trafficking in Nigeria (FRMNET)
The latest in our series of partner interviews is with Chylian Ify Azuh. Chylian’s story was compiled by Liluye staff writer Sylvia Nalubega. Chylian is the Founder of FRMNET (Female Returned Migrants Network), an organization that creates active vanguards in the fight against all forms of gender-based violence and other related issues which affect the woman and girl child in our local communities and adjoining suburbs.
To watch Chylian’s interview, please watch below:
This is the Liluye interview of Chylian:
How did you first get involved in being part of this work? In other words, what motivated you, or still drives you, to work on the issue of trafficking? Can you share a personal story?
I am a survivor of human trafficking. My experience lasted for about four months in 2017 but was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. For months, before the trafficking when I was supposed to graduate from Enugu State University of Science and Technology as an architect I couldn’t due to lack of tuition. During that time, I got a part time job and also became pregnant. Things didn’t go as planned as I was abandoned by my partner, and I was sickly. This left me in a very vulnerable position so when my relatives presented to my parents an available “juicy” opportunity to work abroad, I had no choice but to accept. That was when I set off on the cruelest journey in my life. I left Nigeria in June, 2018. I, along with the other people going for the same opportunity, used the Trans Saharan route via Libya to France. The journey was very challenging with limited access to meals, water, and communication. Unfortunately, at the end of this long journey, I found myself in a jail cell in the country of destination. Luckily, I got support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and I came back home. I was too ashamed to go back home but it was my best recourse.
My experience inspired me to start a movement which is my organization (FRMNET) in May, 2019 to raise awareness on human trafficking which largely thrives on the lack of information for the victims and survivors. I chose to focus on girls and women because reintegration in the community after being in a trafficking situation is very challenging for them. I started volunteering with IOM, too, to share my story in the hope of preventing many unknowing people from suffering the same fate as myself.
What are the specific mission and goals of your organization?
The mission of FRMNET is to actively become vanguards in the fight against all forms of gender-based violence and other related issues which affect the woman and girl child in our local communities and adjoining suburbs. We do this by educating and empowering women to foster a more peaceful society, social cohesion, and community development towards encouraging safe migration should there be any need to migrate. Our goal is combating human trafficking through female empowerment.
Share with us some of the things you are doing to support survivors of trafficking, or to prevent those who are vulnerable from going through it.
With a focus on reintegration for survivors, our core activities include life skills and technical and vocational training (TVET) in areas such as catering, shoe making, tailoring, tie dye, phone repair, computer skills, etc. We recently had a nutritionist who trained women on how to make good meals and quick snacks which they could make and sell, too. Also, some of the women have started food enterprises within their locations.
And, through our monthly online space via a WhatsApp group chat and Facebook, we work with mental health support people and counselors to provide psychosocial support to survivors. Those who need more attention are given referrals for mental and emotional healing at various hubs. Moreover, through the technical resources, including information and materials on trafficking we acquire from IOM, we do awareness campaigns in the community for prevention and provide support to the survivors. We also address the stigma attached to human trafficking. Quite often people who have gone through this traumatic experience are usually isolated. Some lose their relationships and means of livelihood. The situation is worse for girls and women because people view them as people who went to do sex work. That is why FRMNET endeavors to provide a safe space for survivors to heal and find belonging. Currently, we have over 200 members from the ages of 17 to about 40 years old.
What kind of change do you want to see as a result of your work among the survivors of trafficking, or those who are most vulnerable to it?
I want to see survivors thriving regardless of their painful history. I also want to see a more supportive system for survivors to enable them to reintegrate into the community. A more supportive system is one that does not stigmatize survivors and provides them with relevant information and mental health support. I seek to reach more people with information on human trafficking, especially those who could be most prone to being allured, such as teenage mothers, vulnerable women, and girls out of school.
What kind of support do you need for your work?
We need technical training in organizational governance and systems development to be sustainable. We also need capacity development sessions in resource mobilization, survivor-led approaches, documenting and branding our organization, and advocacy. We plan to set up a permanent physical training center, hence we are raising resources for that.
Chylian was interviewed by Liluye staff writer Sylvia Nalubega who also writes a blog, Sanyu Centre for Arts and Rights. Sylvia’s personal message to everyone is, “We live beyond ourselves by sharing our story to hopefully impact a person.”