From Anti-Human trafficking Awareness to Anti-Human Trafficking Academy
A story of how Joseph Osuigwe Chidiebere started The Academy for Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matters (a subsidiary of Devatop Center For Africa Development) by Difference Makers News.
Tell us about yourself and childhood experience?
My name is Joseph Osuigwe Chidiebere, the Executive Director of Devatop Centre for Africa Development, and the coordinator of The Academy for Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matters (TAPHOM). I was born on 26th June, 1985 to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Lugard Osuigwe Maduka, from Ehime Mbano, Imo State, Nigeria. I am the first born of two boys. My childhood has its good and bad side. Well, it is important to say that I spent only two years with my mummy, and at most 8 years with my father. The rest of my childhood was with 5 different families from distinct locations. I would say my childhood experience was very tough. At the age of 8 plus, I started farming, digging stones, gathering gravels, and other hard works that were beyond my age. There were times I was locked out to sleep outside for not doing or completing farm work, and other domestic works. This affected my education. In few occasions when I changed a location, I will be forced to step down in class. But, the good side of it is that it was a learning process. The experience taught me hard work, perseverance, temperance, and endurance.
So how did you become a graduate?
I am a graduate of Education Mathematics from University of Nigeria. It was hard for me to register for JAMB/entrance exam to university because of unavailable and delayed support. However, after four years, I eventually gained admission to university in 2007. While in 200 level (second year) I started students’ empowerment, lecturing 100level students on mathematics, writing and distributing inspirational newsletters to students, and organizing yearly academic seminars for newly admitted students. I started my activism while in school, advocating for students’ right, combating examination misconduct and extortion of money from students, and also attracted enmity from corrupt lecturers. I was my departmental course leader for 4 years, but I resisted the temptation of been used by lecturers to extort money from students. The summary of it is that there was a targeted attempt by some of these lecturers to keep me in school for extra 2 years. On several occasions my results were withheld, scores denied, scripts missing, and all that. This affected my result negatively. But with persistence and hard work, I graduated at due time.
How did you start anti-human trafficking advocacy?
Ehmmm…that was during my National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) in 2013, then I was a member of Millennium Development Goals Community Development Group. However, the passion to combat human trafficking and other related matters became obvious during my NYSC primary assignment at Women Rehabilitation Center which was operated by Society Against Prostitution and Child Labour in Nigeria. The centre is a place where victims of sexual exploitation and repented commercial sex workers are rehabilitated. I was one of their teachers and mentors. I organized empowerment programmes for the survivors/victims, mentored few of them to enroll for higher education, provided academic materials for some, and organized competitions for all. I also had one-on-one chat with some of the victims of sexual exploitation; it was on that process that my passion was ignited, and also realizing that Nigeria is among the countries with highest numbers of victims of human trafficking, my anger against modern slavery and gender-based violence was kindled. I told myself, “I will dedicate my time, creativity, energy and resources to combat this evil”. So I launched into action.
First, I consulted so many people, did a background study of the problem, gathered few statistics, and explored partnerships. I can remember vividly that some people told me, “this is not a lucrative venture or project that could attract sponsorships”. However, I was willing to use my allowance and savings for this project. I made it my National Youth Service Community Project; wrote letters to schools in vulnerable communities and got approval. So, I started the anti-human trafficking awareness in five communities. I partnered with National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to educate more than 2000 teenagers, youth, and teachers on how to combat human trafficking. My friends and colleagues volunteered for the awareness. During the awareness, there were about three female victims of sexual exploitation we counseled. Later in November 2013, in commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I and my team organized inter-school quiz competition on sex trafficking with material support from United Nations Office for Drugs and Crimes (UNODC). Anti-human trafficking awareness materials from UNODC were donated to the participants.
I usually spend 60% of my allowance on the project; sometimes I skipped my meals and preferred trekking instead of boarding taxi so as to save money for printing and submission of letters. A lot of people, organizations and companies found it strange to support the anti-human trafficking project, and considering the fact that I was just starting it. But, the result and testimonies I received after the first edition of the awareness increased my motivation to continue with the project. It was during that same year that Devatop Centre for Africa Development started with focus on preventing human trafficking, and educational empowerment. We continued with the anti-human trafficking awareness in primary schools and did a 20 minutes TV programme with Nigerian Television Authority.
In 2014, we organized the second edition of the awareness for 1900 students on how to prevent human trafficking, rape and gender-based violence.
On 12th June, 2015, to commemorate the World Day Against Child Labour, we organized an awareness for 160 market women and men at Dutse, Abuja.
How did you start the Anti-Human Trafficking Academy and what are your objectives?
More than 27 million people are victims of human trafficking globally. This figure exceeds the population of most countries. 50 million uneducated, illiterate, unemployed, less privileged, and displaced Nigerians are vulnerable to human trafficking. We realized that there are much works to do to end human trafficking; and just few people are doing them. We also felt that awareness is not enough to combat human trafficking. We saw the need to train advocates and trainers who will take strategic actions against human trafficking and other related matters. This need propelled us to establish The Academy For Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matter (TAPHOM) in July, 2015. The academy is aimed at training anti-human trafficking advocates and trainers who will organize awareness, campaign, seminars, trainings, shows, and monitor and report human trafficking incident. The academy focuses on training, advocacy, research, counseling, referral and publications.
On 10th and 11th July, we trained 27 youth and educators as advocates and trainers. Some of the advocates are taking strategic actions, organizing anti-human trafficking seminars in their various locations.
On 1st August 2015, we organized a campaign: Freedom Walk and Show against human trafficking and rape in commemoration of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
Last week, on 25th and 26th November, 2015, the Academy for Prevention of Human Trafficking and Other Related Matters trained 65 law enforcement, legal practitioners, medical professionals, youth, educators, religious members, journalists, community volunteers, media professionals and survivors on anti-human trafficking advocacy course.
So far, what has been the outcome of the anti-human trafficking training?
Well, it is just less than 5 months we started the anti-human trafficking academy. 3 youth among those who participated in July training have organized seminars in Abuja were they sensitized students on how to combat human trafficking. Few others have reported incidents of child abuse to us, and we have seen the social media campaigns of other participants.
The participants of November training were empowered to organize step down training, awareness and media campaigns. We expect that at least 40% percent of them will organize actions within the next one year. But we are certain that the training improved the knowledge of law enforcement and legal practitioners, and they will become more proactive in handling cases on human trafficking, rape and other forms of abuses. The educators are expected to educate their pupils/students, identify and report situations where students are experiencing potential abuse including human trafficking.
Considering the fact that ending modern slavery should be a collaborative effort, who else are you collaborating with to combat human trafficking?
I believe in the power of collaboration. I like to call it “Collabo”. Apart from passion and hard work, our achievement is also a reflection of collaboration and partnership with some reputable and committed organizations and individuals. We have engaged more than 15 organizations and firms in the fight against human trafficking. Some of our partners are National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, National Human Rights Commission, Mova Industrial Design, Fight Against Child Trafficking, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, Studio 24, Media Insight. We hope to collaborate with more national and international organizations.
Where will the anti-human trafficking academy be within the next 10 years?
The academy has the potential to be a globally recognized academy that trains advocates and trainers to combat human trafficking in different African and Asian countries. However, within the next 10 years, we must have replicated the academy in 3 regions of Nigeria, and in 3 Africa countries. Some of our goals include: to train 200 anti-human trafficking advocates yearly who will reach out to over 50, 000 people; to sensitize at least 8, 000 people yearly through our awareness; to establish a hotline/helpline against trafficking in persons; to build our headquarter with 150 capacity lecture hall, research/ICT centre, library, etc; employ more people; give small grants yearly to some of our trainees to carry out anti-human trafficking projects; organize skill acquisitions for survivors and vulnerable women and youth; and so many others which I may not mention because of time and space. Most of these will take place within 2 to 5 years.
Meanwhile, by 2016, we will release our 3 anti-human trafficking booklets, and some awareness materials (documentaries, storybooks, and songs). I must say that we will be persistent, consistent, insistent and creative in combating human trafficking and other related matters.