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Conversation with Beatrice Okezie, survivor of human trafficking and currently, co-founder of Africans in America,Inc.

I recently had the opportunity to connect with Beatrice Okezie, one of the key voices against human trafficking and a co-founder of Africans in America Inc., an organization fighting against the gross abuse of African victims of human trafficking trapped in the United States. Beatrice’s story is a shocking tale of slavery in modern times; but what is more shocking is that this is not the only such tale, there are many more where this comes from.

Beatrice was born in a small town in Nigeria to poor parents and sent at a tender age of 8 to work with a family as a maid. At age 13, under false promises, she was sent to work with a family in New York as a housemaid. Once there, her documents were confiscated and she was literally a slave. For nine years she worked without pay and was physically, emotionally and medically abused, financially exploited and deprived.

Eventually, in 1998, at the age of 22, after an intense physical assault resulting in body injuries and head trauma, Beatrice was rescued when neighbors called the police.

Since then, Beatrice founded Africans in America Inc., to help raise awareness about this modern-day slavery and save others in similar situations.

Below is a brief Q&A with Beatrice:

Q: Based on your experiences, I would like to hear from you your vision for combating this problem.
A: Similar seriousness which the western world used to end Trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 20th century could be applied to combat and end human trafficking today.

When we formed and established the organization in 2001 after the prosecution of my case, very few people knew what we were talking about. I am glad that today, human trafficking is one of the top topics in the United Nations and around the world.

If genuine political people with big connections and clouts (which I do not have) could sincerely and aggressively lead this effort, the global war against human trafficking could be won, no doubt.

Q: How can we ensure that the disempowered have a voice? You were a victim yourself -- how do you think we can stop this inhuman trade?
A: The best way to ensure that the disempowered have a voice should be by adequately funding the grassroots organizations that are working with the disempowered.

We can stop this trade in humans by heightening awareness on the issues and rendering comprehensive direct services to the victims.

I would think that adding a human face to the problem of human trafficking will make the message real and stronger.

Q: What do you think we can do better in fighting this commoditization of women? I would also like to hear about YOUR current needs for advancing your work. How can an offering like PulseWire support you in the work you are doing?

A: Human trafficking victims that end up in the western world are mostly females, however, human trafficking victims in among African countries arevequally boys and girls; therefore human trafficking is
really a general human problem.

Our greatest need at this moment is funding. We just do not have the funding necessary to fully develop our program, hire staff to do the urgently needed work.

If PulseWire could assist us in fundraising, that will be great.

For more information about Beatrice, click here:
http://www.aiainc.org/a/p/bio/bio_bo.html

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