Thousands of girls are being trafficked from rural Togo to work as unpaid domestic servants every year. They are taken to Togo’s capital Lomé or neighbouring countries by traffickers who are often relatives.
They are put to work in households where, Cinderella-like, they perform laborious domestic work. Their wages are collected as an income by the traffickers.
Trafficked girls miss out on school, and many experience physical violence, are not fed, or are sexually abused.
Plan International helps to reunite these girls with their families and provides vocational training to help reintegrate them into society. Those who are young enough are helped back to school. The project also works alongside community members and traffickers to raise awareness of the dangers of trafficking and the importance of children’s rights.
“I think I can build my future”
Bella*, 16, was trafficked when she was 9. She is now training to be a hairdresser and beautician.
“My sister asked if I wanted to live with her in Lomé. Once there, I was forbidden to go to school. She told me I was too old.
Now that I’m learning a trade, I feel better
“She proposed I work as a domestic servant and raise enough money so she could take me back to my village.
“I washed, cooked and took care of the children. Sometimes I would finish at 9pm. We would wake up at 5am, sometimes 4am.
“Most of the time, my boss would insult me. She used to beat me when I didn’t look after the children.
“Now that I’m learning a trade, I feel better. I really like my hairdressing. I think I can build my future. When I finish my training, I will open a shop where I can work, make money and take care of myself.”
“I want to have my own workshop”
Rachida, 17, was trafficked when she was 10. Now, she is learning to be a seamstress.
“I was 10 when I went to Nigeria. My mother told me we’d go for a month and then I’d come back to my studies. When we got there, she took the money and left.
I learnt sewing with the help of Plan International
“The lady I worked for beat me every day. I washed clothes, did the cooking and fetched water. If I didn’t work, I didn’t eat. I didn’t have a bed – I slept alone in the storeroom.
“I stayed for 2 years. Then I stayed with another woman for a year.
“I’m angry with my mother, I didn’t think she could do this to me.
“When I got home I learnt sewing with the help of Plan International. I want to be the boss and have my own workshop.”
“I’ve trained 4 groups of girls”
Moussilia, 45, was trafficked and later became a trafficker. Now she trains girls at her sewing workshop.
I had to stop and build my life
“I spent 9 years as a domestic worker. When I came home my family wanted me to learn dress making.
“After my training I had no sewing machine to work with. I decided to go back to Nigeria with 4 younger friends to search for money.
“I cashed their salaries, and yes they were badly treated, just like I was. Children I trafficked were aged 12-18. I took girls to Nigeria several times.
“Some girls followed willingly. Sometimes, we had to tell them lies but my goal was to make money, not care about their suffering.
“I stopped trafficking after a girl I took got seriously ill. I realised that I behaved like a child and I had to stop and build my life. I decided to stop and have my own job.
“I opened my own sewing workshop and now I have 6 apprentices. I’ve also trained 4 groups of girls sent to me by Plan International Togo.
“Trafficking can stop if authorities, NGOs and people like me work with traffickers to raise awareness of children’s rights.”
*Name changed to protect identity