HIV, Human Trafficking And Staying Alive 1
"I sleep with at least 10 men per night, the most I have slept with is 17 per night. On some good days, 14..."
On arrival that evening, we were nicely treated. The next day we were told that we will resume at the shop. I was excited I was going to be working in a big shop in another country that I couldn’t sleep at night. I imagined working already and putting my best.
Test Ke? We aren't allowed to leave the house let alone go for any test, but the God I worship who knows that I'm not doing this from my heart will not allow me to be infected with HIV?
The Client who wishes to be known and addressed as Bella (not real name) hails from Ekpoma in Edo State.
At 17 while I was in SS 3, I was gang-raped by 3 men on my way back from School. This experience left me so devastated; I felt this was the end of the world, but somehow, I managed to pull through. This was how I lost my virginity. Back home, things weren't so rosy, but it was manageable until one day a certain woman came home and told my mother she was looking for a young girl that will manage her big hairdressing saloon in Cotonou.
My parents on hearing this readily gave me out to the woman as things were tough.
On arriving at the woman's House in Nigeria in preparation of our trip to Cotonou I met another young girl like me who was also told she will be going for the same purpose as me. I thought to myself she ‘may be the saloon is very big and she needs more hands'.
The woman was all nice during our stay at her house in Nigeria. She never failed to inform us about the weather, the beaches, the currency, the nightlife and the greener pastures awaiting us in Cotonou and how we will be meeting WHITE PEOPLE. She’d always say ‘of course we have white people…’
A week Later I was surprised when the woman sat both of us down and asked us if we are virgins. I readily answered no, trusting her with the incident that occurred some 3years ago. She showed great Concern and she made me feel she cared. The other girl too wasn't a virgin. The next thing after the information was made known to us, we went for an HIV test. She informed us that this was a necessity for us to travel out of Nigeria. Out of excitement, we agreed. We never thought of any other possible thing or instances ahead.
Arrival at Cotonou, Benin Republic
The next morning I woke very early out of enthusiasm, showered and prepared for work, but Madam was still sleeping. Later on, around 12 when Madam woke up, she wasn't talking shop anymore; she asked where I was dressing to go to which I answered shop. To my greatest surprise, Madam said ‘I don't want to tell you how much you will pay me to gain your freedom, but you will work for me for 2years then you'll gain your freedom’.
I was still lost, I didn’t understand what Madam meant by this. The only thing that crossed my mind was the apprentice arrangement (where you serve someone after which the person will free you) but the explanation was done clearly that evening when the other girl left with Madam around 6 to a different spot and she was taken to Jonquer to work for Madam.
This is not how I wanted my life to be. I was raped and now, this?
That's how I began working for my Madam. I became a prostitute. As I'm talking to you, my lower abdomen has seriously been aching me for months now, I haven't gone to the hospital, but I'm drinking some traditionally-prepared medicine.
Why didn't you run when you found out what you are going to be doing in Cotonou?
In my house, feeding is hard, leaving was a relief, going back will be a hard thing to do. I don't enjoy this work I'm doing but I'll be free next month, so I'm just going to clean up and work genuinely. I can't advise any young person to follow my path., I wish I can inform the whole world my story. Our government should come and see what we are passing through here.
How many men do you sleep with?
At least 10 in a night, the most number I have counted is 17 a night some good days 14 and so and on bad days 7
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is contacting HIV, most times, some men are so rough that the Condom breaks in me.
When last did you go for an HIV Test?
This interview was conducted by Blez Inyang, the Convener and Peer Educator of BlezInyang Foundation. He is a Nigerian and he lives Cotonou, Benin Republic. The story is in no way fiction. His foundation creates awareness for HIV/ AIDS. He is an advocate for gender, HIV/AIDS and human trafficking.
Gift Wogu on the other hand is particularly interested in gender and human trafficking. She has published a novel on human trafficking which is available in print and on Okadabooks.