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Human trafficking victims should be protected, not treated like criminals – Ladipo-Sanusi

Lawrence Enyoghasu

Mabong Ladipo-Sanusi holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria.

She is a child rights advocate and a BBC-trained journalist. She is currently the head of Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation (WOTCLEF).

As the Abuja co-ordinator for the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), Ladipo-Sanusi has spearheaded a number of child rights issues; for instance, she intervened and successfully resolved a legal adoption tussle involving two American-born Nigerian children through the Nigeria Human Rights Commission

She mentors pupils in schools and counsels youngsters using her wide experience and expertise to enhance the lives of children, especially adolescents, through Early Impact, a programme she initiated in 2010.

In this interview with Daily Sun, she speaks about her new role in WOTCLEF and other issues.


 How do you feel about your recent elevation?

I am very allergic to titles because any title, for me, is all about responsibility. It has to do with ‘response’ and ‘ability.’

As you are aware, according to the official statement by the founder of WOTCLEF, Chief (Mrs.) Amina Titi Atiku-Abubakar, my position is to coordinate the activities of WOTCLEF nationally and internationally. This is huge and challenging. It is not child’s play at all. I am grateful to be a vessel and channel through which human trafficking will be stemmed.

What is your experience so far on the job?

But for the fact that one is committed to the humanitarian cause, I would say it can be emotionally frustrating and draining. I have learnt how to be very empathic with the abused, the vulnerable and trafficked victims.

I have to be patient and not brash, judgemental or high-handed. Cases can to be very disturbing, especially when it concerns a child. You are hardly finish with one and another would surface. I recall that, as a volunteer and duty bearer in the Child Justice Clinic (CJC) set up with technical support from UNICEF, where professionals offered psycho-social therapy and helped minors access justice, we had countless cases from homes and schools with real-life victims that sounded like fiction.

Slugging it out with the law enforcement agents to know that victims should be protected rather than treated as criminals is most cumbersome. Embarking on a fact-finding mission can be challenging but it often pays off when issues are resolved through alternative disputes resolution.

Currently, as an anti-trafficking expert and psycho-social therapist, who rehabilitates and reintegrates victims in a shelter, it is always a thing of joy when you evaluate the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of beneficiaries, many of whom have come from ground zero to being undergraduates.

With your new role in WOTCLEF, what should Nigerians and the international community expect from the organisation?

First, I want Nigerians and the international community to know that WOTCLEF remains committed to its thematic areas: elimination of trafficking in persons (TIP), child labour, the abuse of the rights of women and children and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

There is a personalised care plan that gives victims the opportunity to actively participate in decision-making processes. With the new trend in TIP, the four pillars, prevention, protection, promotion of the rights of victims and partnering with stakeholders, are very important.

WOTCLEF has established children-focused anti-trafficking brigades in primary and secondary schools, where trained teachers who are their patrons and matrons train children who would in turn reach out to their peers on our focal areas.

Moreover, WOTCLEF partners with the directorate of the National Youth Service Corps, which traverses the nooks and crannies of the country through its Community Development Scheme, to empower various communities with knowledge and skills in our areas of focus. Collaborating with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which was established through WOTCLEF’s legislative advocacy, strengthens the response in providing assistance and support to victims, especially when it comes to the hunting down and prosecution of traffickers.

With the continuous upsurge in the number of Nigerians, mostly youths, risking death across the desert and the Mediterranean Sea in a desperate bid to find “greener pastures” in Europe, more sustained empowerment programmes are designed for young people.

How best do you think parents can get involved in the fight against child and women trafficking?

One of the best ways is through raising awareness and creating enlightenment programmes. We use the K.A.P. technique, which stands for Knowledge, Attitude and Skills Technique. We get traditional/religious leaders, various women and pressure groups involved.  One of WOTCLEF’s strategies is collaborating with stakeholders.

Such stakeholders include other civil society organisations, faith-based organisations and non-governmental organisations. Government agencies like the National Orientation Agency need to do more in letting parents know that most promises of better life outside the shores of Nigeria are deceptive and crafted to lure their wards into slavery, prostitution and other vices.

Finally, as a mother, how do you think we can re-orientate the girl-child towards knowing that the route to Libya leads nowhere?

It is not just the girl-child that needs such re-orientation. The boy-child also does. Even though the girl child will have to contend with various types of violence such as rape, sexual assault, child marriage, domestic servitude, child labour and the fact that some states are yet to implement the Child Rights Act, to mention a few. The journey via Libya remains perilous. Both formal and informal education will keep the girl-child informed and empowered.


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