Changing Narratives on Seeking Greener Pastures Abroad


Niyi Ogundipe

It is in human nature to believe that the grass is greener on the other side. This belief is what has fuelled the mad rush by some uninformed young men and women to look for any means to leave the country in the hope that they can find a better life elsewhere.

The quick growth of the population and economic issues in recent years has produced stubbornly high youth unemployment in many places, leaving many youths doubting that they could ever have a decent life within the country.

As a result, a category of Nigerians believe it could be better abroad. Reports of harrowing experiences of people who go through tortuous journeys in the desert, crossing the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats and ending up in European cities as slaves or asylum seekers, including those who never make it to their destination, reflect the desperation of many of the country’s youths, seeking the proverbial greener pastures abroad.

You hear stories of Nigerians who fall off overloaded trucks and become food for wild animals in the desert or end up in slave camps in Libya, a location which has become the typical first point of call after leaving the country.

Some are among those that regularly get drowned in the Mediterranean, all in search of the means of livelihood they could not find in their country. Experience shows that in most cases, they end up not finding the greener pastures they seek outside the shores of the country. That is because the grass is not always greener on the other side. This essentially is the narrative that the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) is trying to promote in the country, especially to young girls who leave the country with high hopes of a better life but end up in forced labour or sex slavery.

Some of these girls are attracted by the fairy tales they hear about their compatriots who are succeeding abroad but arrive in Europe to find a completely different picture from what had been painted to them. They end up working for prostitution rings without pay, become domestic slaves or find themselves in forced marriages.

NAPTIP is trying to enlighten young girls who are often the most vulnerable in what is globally acknowledged as modern slavery that they can make their pastures green wherever they are in the country.

Last year, NAPTIP launched the Not for Sale campaign to make many young Nigerian girls understand that what they are going to Sokoto to look for is right inside their Sokoto. In other words, they don’t need to risk their lives to travel abroad, especially under the traumatic conditions some of them go through, to find success.

They have at their fingertips and within the country, the means to attain great success. What could be considered the pilot phase of Not For Sale is targeted at girls from Edo and Delta states because statistics show that they form the bulk of victims of human trafficking in Nigeria, a problem which is evidently not peculiar to just those two states, but a national problem.

The campaign involves sensitisation exercises in every segment of society to drive the message that girls are Not for Sale.

NAPTIP launched a movement which aims to inspire, empower and enable young women in Edo and Delta states to build a successful future at home in Nigeria.

Approximately 80 per cent of Nigerian women who take the dangerous journey overseas end up being trafficked and forced into prostitution. Edo and Delta states are where most victims come from. We want to help women in those states to find success on their own terms, and not pay the terrible price paid by so many who looked for success abroad. The campaign shares the stories of young women who have found success at home, promoting these across TV, cinema, radio, outdoor, Facebook, digital, events and PR.

Young girls are made to understand that they can achieve their dreams without having to sell their bodies and that they should not allow themselves to be influenced by those who have chosen the wrong path to success.

Parents who encourage their daughters to travel abroad for prostitution in order to become family breadwinners are persuaded to guide their innocent daughters into more dignifying vocations that would earn for the girls and the families, the respect of society.

NAPTIP is using the campaign to pass across the message to families and relevant community actors that life is not a competition in which any means for winning is acceptable. Instead, young girls should be encouraged to seek success through legitimate and dignifying paths.

The Not for Sale campaign is not just about discouraging young girls from taking to prostitution or other indecent and degrading vocations for survival. It is also about helping them identify different forms of empowerment opportunities available within the country to enable them to have decent means of livelihood.
There is something each state of the federation can emulate from the Not for Sale campaign. The economic situation in the country has rendered many young girls vulnerable and exposed to all manner of temptations, especially if those temptations offer a means of escape from the biting hardship that is being felt virtually everywhere.

As such, state and local governments do not have to wait for girls to become victims of trafficking before they think of rehabilitation programmes to give them better means of survival. There is virtually no human being that does not have any idea of how to turn one naira into two, all they need is some encouragement on whatever ideas they have and supported with the initial one naira. The growing trend among youths today is entrepreneurship.

Governments can stem the tide of human trafficking by introducing skills acquisition programmes for young girls and providing means of take-off to help them find their feet.

Ogundipe, a businessman, lives in Lagos