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Anti-Trafficking

Teenage Girl Drugged by Trafficker Is Home Safe: A Love Justice Story of Freedom Versus Slavery

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*Based on a true story.

Saida* woke slowly to the purr of idling engines and voices around her. Headlights lit up the night. She was sitting upright, propped between two other people, a man and a woman. Gradually, her brain registered the slow forward movement underneath and the hands gripping the handlebars in front of her.

She was on a motorcycle. How did she get there?

Her head hurt, and her thoughts felt heavy and slow. Forming words seemed impossible. She closed her eyes. 

When she opened them again, she saw there was some kind of station ahead. It appeared they were waiting in line to pass through. She found her voice: “Where are we going?”

“To Nairobi, for your new job,” the male driver answered.

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She remembered now, the stranger her aunt had befriended and introduced to her at her 16th birthday party. The stranger, a man named Mubiru,* had kindly offered to secure her a position as a domestic helper for a friend of his in Kenya. “A very dear friend, almost like family,” he told her. The woman seeking a helper would surely put her to work caring for babies, cooking, cleaning—tasks that Saida already did at home anyway. “She will care for you like a daughter,” he said confidently. “They are well-known members of the community. Knowing them will certainly open up many more doors of opportunity for you.” His face was sincere. She believed he wanted to do her a favor.

But the main reason she decided to accept the job was because the pay was higher than similar positions her friends had taken. Saida wanted to be able to send extra money back to her family, since things had been tight the past few years. As the oldest of her siblings, she felt it was time she started contributing. 

Mubiru arranged to drive her across the border on his motorcycle and pass her off to another friend who would take her to the employer’s house. When the day came to travel, he gave her a soda from the gas station. 

Her memory ended there

Now she was on this motorcycle with Mubiru and an unknown woman. How long had they been traveling? Why couldn’t she remember any of it? She didn’t even remember saying goodbye to her family.

young_girl_africa_YE_22Finally passing through the border station, they came upon Mubiru’s friend on another motorcycle who would take her the rest of the way. Saida felt slightly nauseated as they helped her transfer over

Once on their way at a comfortable speed, the warm night wind made her head feel somewhat clearer. She found her voice, sleepy though it was: “Are we almost there?” 

“Almost,” the driver answered. 

It was dawn when they finally arrived at the house where she was to work. It was a two-story, tan-colored building with a few tiled stairs leading up to double wooden doors. Certainly nothing overly extravagant, but the glow from pink skies made the house seem full of promise.

She knocked on the door and waited, listening eagerly to the approaching footsteps within. The door swung open to reveal a frowning older woman.

“Hello,” Saida said politely. “My name is Saida; I’m your new employee.” 

“You can start by helping my husband clear the fields out back,” the woman said gruffly, pointing toward the back door. 

Although exhausted and terribly hungry from the long journey, Saida didn’t want to make a bad first impression, so she obeyed

The fields out back were covered with old, dried-out corn stalks. A man was busily hacking away with a sickle. He saw her approach and stood up, his eyes raking over her form.

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“You can gather up what I’ve cut down,” he said by way of introduction. “Stay close by me,” he added with a smirk. 

Her heart sank. Besides feeling uncomfortable out in the fields alone with this man, it seemed obvious that she had been misled about many aspects of this “job.” 

But what options did she have? It had taken almost a full day to get there, and Mubiru had paid the way. She didn’t know how to get home and didn’t have money for it anyway

Breathing through the disappointment and fear coursing through her, she followed the man deeper into the field, stooping to gather the stalks lying lifeless on the ground.

But what if…

Now she was on this motorcycle with Mubiru and an unknown woman. How long had they been traveling? Why couldn’t she remember any of it? She didn’t even remember saying goodbye to her family. 

While she puzzled over these missing details, she slowly became aware of another person speaking to her. 

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“Hello, what is your name? Child, can you hear me?” 

“Um, yes,” she said slowly. My name is … Saida.” It appeared the motorcycle trio had been stopped for questioning while they waited in line

“Where are you headed, Saida?” 

“To a … a job. In Nairobi.” Mubiru exhaled as she said this. 

“Hmm, your driver seems to think you are going to study at school,” the speaker said. Saida didn’t know how to respond. That didn’t make any sense. 

The speaker, a young man, talked a bit more with Mubiru before persuading them to park the bike for a moment and join his colleagues at a nearby booth for further questioning. His colleagues questioned Mubiru and the other woman separately, while the first young man continued his questions with her. 

“You’re not in trouble; I certainly don’t want to alarm you,” he started, kindly. “We just want to make sure you’re safe. Can you tell me the contact info for the new job you are going to?”

“I don’t have it,” Saida said.

“How did you get here?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you able to get home safely by yourself if you need to?”

“No.”

With every question the man asked, Saida started to realize how vulnerable her position was. She turned to look at Mubiru who was being questioned by another person across the way. He saw her turn and met her eyes with such an expression of hatred it took her breath away. Such a contrast now from the benevolent man at her party!

The young man speaking with her noticed this exchange. “Saida, have you ever heard of something called ‘human trafficking’?”

“No. What is that?” 

“It happens when vulnerable people are tricked into thinking they are going to a new job or to meet a love interest, and instead find themselves trapped in a very bad situation. We think this may be the case for you now.”

She looked back again at Mubiru to see the other colleagues handing him over to the police.

“Would you like us to help you get home?”

“Yes, please.”

Saida arrived home the following morning and stood still for a moment, gazing at the simple single-story structure with the tin roof that she’d grown up in. She hadn’t realized how much leaving would ache, even for such a short time. 

But before she could be too pensive, her mother burst out the front door and ran to hug her. “They called and told me everything that happened,” she said, her voice breaking. “I just don’t know what I would have done if … Thank God you’re home.”

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Saida made it back home, but many others never do

Even if they escape slavery, many people are unable to reassimilate in their home communities because of shame. For those who do successfully reassimilate, there is still trauma to work through and heal from. 

The best solution then is to stop slavery before it happens. This is why our monitors stand at borders, like this one, to stop vulnerable people like Saida from ever reaching their destination. 

There are many more borders unattended. Will you stand with us? Visit here to find out what you can do to stop human trafficking. 

GIVE TODAY TO HELP END SLAVERY

 

*All data and statistics current at the date and time of publishing. Names changed, and some specific locations excluded for privacy and security purposes.

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