Lately, you might have noticed the #NotForSale hashtag on one (or many) of your social media timelines, usually accompanied by a photo or video. What it is a campaign targeted at raising awareness of the dangers of human trafficking, as well as encouraging Nigerian women with positive, aspirational stories of their female counterparts who have built successful lives right here, at home.
Studies show that human trafficking, the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain, is a $150 billion global industry. According to reports, two-thirds of this figure ($99 billion) is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while another $51 billion is a result of economic exploitation, which includes domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities.
“I am not for sale” is the message for Nigerian women, by Nigerian women. Women all over the country are participating in the advertising campaign, supported by the UK government, which seeks to discourage other women from being lured by traffickers selling false promises of a better life in Britain.
Today, there are an estimated 136,000 people in the UK who have been trafficked, then coerced into sex work or forced labour – modern day slavery. Nigeria is reportedly the fourth largest source of human trafficking to the UK, and approximately 80% of girls arriving to Europe from Nigeria, through irregular migration, are potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
One of those women was Gift Johnathan, a mother of two, who was assaulted when she made an attempt to migrate to Europe. “Things were so hard that when my friend told me about traveling to Germany, guy I moved! We only made it to Libya. I was sold, raped and tortured. I saw many Nigerians die including my friend Iniobong.”
When she eventually made her way back to Nigeria, she fortunately encountered a humanitarian group who supported her. Now, she bakes for a living.
But how is this anti-human trafficking campaign different from any others that have come (and gone) before? “Most prevention campaigns in Nigeria have focused on the horror stories and dangers of trafficking, but this has proved ineffective,” the Department for International Development’s (DFID) modern slavery lead in Lagos, Richard Sandall said. “As we were developing this proposal we began to hear stories that actually these negative stories were almost reinforcing the urge to go. We wanted to create a different narrative,” said Sandall.
Through the power of the media, this new narrative is being pushed, with the aim of giving Nigerian women a new story – one devoid of exploitation and abuse. Celebrities such as actor, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, are also using this platform to share their own success stories, with the hope that one day, human trafficking in Nigeria can be a thing of the past.
Find out more about the Not For Sale campaign.