Sometime last year, I spoke to one of my younger cousins- a graduate without a good job. She’s done internships, but to find good employment, is another story. She accepted a job at a primary school, but her salary is nothing to write home about. To keep body and soul together, she learned how to sew and cook. This means that she uses her free time to make clothes after school, and on weekends, she works with an established caterer at weddings and events. Yet, she was barely able to afford rent, food, and transportation every month. When we spoke, I was amazed by her. Where does she find the strength to do all these?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that her story is not unique. Many young Nigerians can relate. We were born inside Nigeria’s wahala; we were raised to innovate around it. We’ve been striving and surviving. When we hear bad news, we find a way to make jokes and laugh about it. If government rolls out unfavorable policies, we’ll find another way. Like when they banned Twitter one day, and Nigerians returned the next day with VPN but is it just me, or does it seem as if people are no longer laughing? There’s lots of despair, and people are tired. It’s hard to be Nigerian. It’s not as if it has been easy before, but these past months, things appear to have just gotten harder. We wake up to bad, absurd, and sometimes shocking news that we don’t know if to laugh or cry.
Recently, I reached out to my cousin again and she told me she’s tired and that she met someone who promised her a job abroad. Which abroad I asked her, how? My heart broke because after our conversation, I realized it was sex traffickers. See, I understand the frustration that pushes young women to seriously consider these options. We are all feeling the bite but please o. We’ve all heard the awful stories of the girls taken to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and several countries in Europe. What happens to them there is worse than slavery!
I learned from my cousin that because things are so difficult in Nigeria, the sex traffickers are on the prowl looking for young girls. They are talking to even girls in secondary school, promising them modeling contracts or jobs that will earn them millions. While I don’t know if my cousin will explore such opportunity, my job is to tell her the risks. Poverty is bad, but sexual exploitation and slavery are even worse.
Today, I’m thinking about other young girls growing up in this tough economic climate. Some of them might be aware of these opportunities in disguise, and some of them might not. However, what we know is that sex trafficking leads to misery. So please, be alert, and if you have younger sisters, cousins, friends, please let them know. Try and support where you can. Let us not drink gutter water because we are thirsty. May Nigeria not cause us to regret our lives. Amen.