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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Friday, May 07, 2010

TWF diaries: trafficked

Last week in London as I proof read the transcribed translations for this edition for subtitling, l made a recommitment to myself. I vowed never to be directly or indirectly responsible for doing this to another human being.

Friday 29th May 2009.

I woke up on democracy day in pain and panic. I had spent the night battling demons in a series of very vivid, physically exhausting nightmares in which l had to find common grounds and confront my fears. In it, I got shot and my child drowned. I was cast adrift with enemies and l witnessed my own shouts of fear rising through the murky waters unheard. Towards the end, after the visceral pain and body wracking tears, my spirit started to rise and I started to note the details even as l knew not where the drifty catastrophe was or was going and war raged around me. I woke up achy but calm.

All this is a result of the TWF stories l am encountering. Yesterday, l met two young girls. I cannot tell you their names as l have a duty to protect them from further pain and stigmatization. Also their councillor had said to me at the end of the recording “l would not let them tell their story to someone who would explore them. I have followed your work for years so I know you are the right person to entrust with the story and to do the right thing by them”.

I am still struggling with what the right thing for this story will be.

Two young girls, both guarded, one frail and hauntingly aloof clutching a pale seven month old that looked like an oversized lizard.

The first girl had been tricked into a brothel in Port Harcourt, beaten and forced into prostitution for months until officials of NAPTIP rescued her.

The second was special.

I had started the day angry at Bayo and Segun with whom l had watched Barca beat Man U at the UEFA finals at the hotel bar the night before. I went to bed afterwards, they didn’t so they arrived for wardrobe and make up late. I hated the costume and hair but appearance has always been secondary to the story for me so I worked with what l got.

We drove to the Iyeye’s place and it was yet another pseudo culture preserving dramatic farce. The interview took place whilst she sat on a funny circular raised dais whilst her young California based nephew conducted the translation although she could speak pidgin. She was a sweet lady though and charmed everyone once the cameras were off.

Afterwards, we went to the rehabilitation centre which Chris declares as unsuitable so we drove one hour, all twenty five of us in a convey to picturesque NIFOR. We wanted a secluded place to protect the girls and get a great background since we would not be able to reveal the girls. NIFOR was pretty but very noisy which was a disaster for this particular trafficked girls’ story.

The story the girl with the child had to tell was so harrowing it required absolute silence especially as she was so soft spoken and weepy. Her eyes and tensed thin body told the story more eloquently than any words.

Here is the transcript.

Halfway through, I was gripped not only by inconsolable sorrow but also by an uncontrollable urge to pee which l did behind a huge tree in full view of the all male crew. Fortunately l had long lost capacity for embarrassment about my seeming incontinence. I completed the interview distracted by the noise and acutely aware of Jeff the sound guy’s discomfort and Chris’ irritation. We had an important story, which cannot be re-recorded with same effect, but we had a lousy location.

After lunch, we returned to the rehab centre but yet again could not film there so we recorded the final part of the edition at my hotel by the pool with Jeff cursing at the noise from the huge generators. The interview with the counsellor Jennifer Ero was very encouraging but also threw down a gauntlet. What am l to do with this haunting story?

The part our trafficked girl lied about in the story is her single abandoned mother status. On deportation and return home, she had tried to rebuild her life and met a man who promised her marriage only to impregnate and abandon her. Both herself and her child were living with HIV. Strangely, through everything else she had survived, all of which she spoke about with defiant candour, this appears to be the taboo she felt most uncomfortable with.

I have never been one for use of sensational stories for viewer ship, l prefer to stay true and honourable to a story so l am often trapped with a need to find solutions or at least present and preserve the story in such a way as to bring succour if not to the wounded but to potential future victims.

One year later, Ms X is still living with HIV and her little HIV positive baby has died.

Jennifer Ero is still trying to help her and others like her.

I am going to support Ms X through change a life.

Most importantly l and Chris have a great idea about what to do with the story to make it an issue that can transform our society.

So far we have got no support, l am still in the mid point of that nightmare.

Trafficked airs on TWF, Sunday 9th May on Africa Magic 6pm local time 7pm central African time.


Evee said...

Well done Funmi. It is rather unfortunate that some young girls have to go through this bad experience of trafficking and sometimes eventual disease. I will watch your program tomorow.

Ayeesha said...

My heart's breaking right now. It's really sad that such is still going on in this day and age. We have a long way to go...

Anonymous said...

funmi,it is so wonderful and greatly apperciated for showing these aspects of issues going on!The last one i watched on sunday on AfricaMagic about trafficking; what the second lady said is so true "Even if you tell people what residing in other country looks like and jobs or things you have got to do to make ends meet in return for dignity and intergrity; people will never believe.They would by all means want to come and their hopes dashed!!!!!!Living outside the country or nation of birth is never easy!!!!!!!!!!!

Favorsheart said...

I watched this particular one on TV and it was really touching. I was so moved. Human trafficking is a really sad issue. I must say, Funmi,you're doing a great job and I know the seeds of love you sow today will bring forth increase...God is your strength

Florence Kayemba said...

Great stuff Fumni...it takes a lot of courage to do what you're doing. Keep up the good work and about the night mares...they are only distractions hindering you from helping others break away from their bondage by exposing their story. All the best and dont ever forget to bruise your knees. Cheerio

pam said...

its hard to understand if your hurting or helping when you must stir painful memories in the person you interview. you are definitely doing a good thing. these are not comfortable stories and yet you never flinch.
Thank you

Anonymous said...

Funmi, you are a top woman.
Cheers on the work you are doing in bringing these social issues to the fore.
Trafficking is a crime against humanity, and our women.
Just after the cross-Atlantic slave trade had ended two cnturies ago, we are confronted with a new and more dangerous evil; worse because this illicit act is done in the underground.

Information and a will to act is key.
Well done Funmi, you do Nigeria proud.