While many persons are aware of sex trafficking, human trafficking that involves forced labour is one that tends to go undetected and is far more prevalent. A survivor of this form of victimisation shares her one-year of dreadful experience before making her escape with a child she never wanted.
“I don’t like, remember the things what happen to me but sometimes it does come back to me and I remember them thing…(sighs)” the teenager said.
As the Guyana government increase efforts to expose and dismantle all forms of human trafficking, more survivors are finding ways to escape the hand of their oppressors.
Traffickers here are no different from those in any part of the world since it is always about the profits derived from forced labour or the commercial sex work of their victims.
In this feature, you will read about the psychological manipulation and cruelty the then 17-year-old girl faced for a year, after being taken from her parents to pay an alleged debt to her biological aunt.
“She was my aunt who I really loved, I use to keep her as my mom from small growing up, she is my father small sister and I didn’t know or think that she will do dem things to me, she took away my ID card, my passport and she took it away from me and my cellular phone so I didn’t get contact with my parents” the teen related.
The teenager was at the time returning her service to the Aunt who would have paid her high school expenses and in turn was automatically given a job at a bar in Region 9 where she lived.
During that time the girl would be accused of taking some money that went missing from the Aunt’s business and with the help of the Police she was handed over to the woman.
“Them Police in our village is believe her because I think she does give them money and they does wan lock up anybody she feel…so when I was in the village in there I was home a Saturday morning and I see two Policemen come, dem tell me ‘hey! Jump pun de bike’, I say ‘for what?’ And he said ‘JUMP ON THE BIKE!’ And I didn’t jump on the bike and then mommy said ‘go’. I didn’t do nothing wrong, so I end up jumping on the bike and go and end up in the station. So little bit after she meet after me and she said ‘you know why I am here?’ And I said ‘no’. She said tell me ‘where is my money?’ and I say ‘Aunty I don’t know where is your money’ and the Police now tell me ‘girl talk up and if yah ain’t talk up I will out you in yah place’. I said ‘I don’t know where is the money’ and he said ‘yah see da place deh I gonna lock you up’, So I was afraid of him locking me up and she said the only choice is for you to come to town and work with me for one year and I said alright I have to come with she to Town.”
It was then the teenage girl would see the real motive of her aunt when she arrived at the woman’s East Bank of Demerara home.
“During the stay at my aunt it wasn’t good, I never get to come out when ah feel like (sighs) she used to treat me bad, like if I tell her Aunty she does curse me but I don’t like to use the words, slam the door in front of my face” she related.
“She give me lots of work to do and she want it in time, I does make breakfast, lunch, dinner (pause) and in the meantime she used to get me cleaning the house and if I don’t finish the work early she would hold something or pelt me in my face sometimes with her car keeps and call me names” she said.
However, while the girl was not given a salary there were cases where she was given “guilt money” from the aunt.
“But since I was small I never hold dem little money cause my brother does go in backdam (mining area) and he does get nuff money like $20,000 and $30,000 we does hold, but since I come to Georgetown I never hold dem kinda money, is share $2000, $3000.”
The only escape the teenager saw was death since she felt no one loved her anymore.
“I didn’t have any choice no more cause like when she start treating me bad, when I sick I had to work, when I had saline I had to work and like I can’t take it anymore. My cousin told me get away but I can’t get away because I don’t know the place…and I don’t know where to go, I was thinking to kill myself but at the same time I think I got mother and I get my little sister and I say no I can’t do it.”
Her second thought was getting pregnant with the hopes of having someone to continue living for.
“I didn’t know what to do…I find a boy, I didn’t like him I had to get pregnant cause like I don’t have nothing to live for so I got pregnant and I get a son.”
According to her, there were moments also when her dear Aunt would try to mould her mind into thinking that the parents she left behind were no good.
With time, the young girl’s struggle would be recognised by one of the employees of the woman.
“She is call my parents, call dem bad name and she never make contact with them from since I was here…she had a truck driver I does borrow his phone, (He said) ‘look what you going through call your parents’, I said ‘I don’t know my parents number’ and he said ‘when I go back I will get their number for you’ so I said ‘alright’ and when he come back I talk to my father and he said ‘wah happen and I said daddy I can’t stay here no more.”
Eventually, her dad after the distressed call found his way to Georgetown to get his child and now grandson who was only two weeks old.
The now teenaged mother was rescued last Christmas eve and the aunt forced to face the law after being charged with human trafficking.
The woman was found guilty last year but is appealing her case in the high court as she remains behind bars.
For the new year, the Social Protection Ministry’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons Unit plans to go after perpetrators when it comes to delivering justice for the victims of human trafficking.
Aside from bringing traffickers to justice, the Ministry plans to connect victims to services that will help them and restore their lives.
“I feel strong with them now that I have a second chance in life and I am working towards it and now that I am doing Nursing and I did well, I am going to another class in developmental care and ah feel good I am out of the situation” the young woman said.