Among the many threats and injustices women endure in war and conflict, human trafficking is one of the most devastating. A form of modern slavery, women captured in conflict also face sexual and gender-based violence.
It’s a danger threatening women living in the communities we serve. Some participants of the program are survivors of human trafficking. In coming together with other women in a safe, supportive environment, women can find a chance to heal.
And when women heal, they see that they have an incredible power. They realize that power has sustained them and that they can grow it and share it with women around them. That’s what Honorata did.
Roaming militias prowl the Democratic Republic of the Congo, inflicting sexual violence on women to terrorize and demoralize their communities. One of these groups kidnapped Honorata and held her captive for a year. They tied her up in public to be gang raped. When she finally escaped, her husband rejected her because of the stigma, where women carry the shame instead of their assailants.
Though Honorata eventually found refuge in a new home, rebels attacked her town, raping her again. They forced her daughter to watch.
Today, Honorata is a graduate of Women for Women International’s Signature Program — and she is now a trainer of the program.
“[The program] has dared me to hope — of having a house, of living in peace, of reclaiming my dynamism, my dignity... I would like to be someone of importance, someone of value.”
After going through the training and learning skills to rebuild her life, learning she has rights equal to any man’s, and connecting with women near and far to build a support network, Honorata found her voice to break the silence around sexual violence. She has become a fierce advocate for women’s rights and helps women unlock their power.
“Now, all I want to do is help other women rebuild their lives. I tell the women I train, look at me, I went through so much and now I am a professional trainer with a good salary,” Honorata said.
Around the world, “women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors,” according to the International Labour Organization.
ISIS continues to harm women in the Middle East. Rape and trafficking were used as tools of genocide against the Yezidi people, with many women and girls still missing.
In Nigeria, another violent extremist organization is expanding: Boko Haram. Infamous for kidnapping 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in northeast Nigeria (112 girls still have not returned), the number of missing persons in northeast Nigeria continues to rise.
But extremist militant groups are not the only culprits. In desperate post-conflict conditions, women and girls are tricked and kidnapped and trafficked. Forced marriage can be a form of human trafficking as well. 88 percent of people forced into exploitive marriages are women and girls, and 37 percent are below the age of 18.
When women have power, they change the world around them to make it better for themselves, other women, and women to come. They have resources that make them resilient during financial crises. Women like Honorata help each other heal and protect one another. They ensure girls receive an education, investing in the prevention of trafficking.
The high rates of women and girls suffering from human trafficking will not stop until the world recognizes this injustice. And it will not stop until women and girls are regarded as people, with dignity and rights. It starts with investing in women’s power.