April 26, 2008
Watch the program: Part 3 | Part 4

"Injustice anywhere creates injustice everywhere" -- Martin Luther King

I am writing this to make sure people do not think that these two womens' stories are rare.

The latest reports from Nigeria claim that over 50,000 women and girls have been transported to Europe just from the Edo state, to feed the growing sex industry and supply cheap domestic work.

Seventy percent of the world's poorest are women and girls, and despite the fact that they produce two-thirds of all work globally, they derive less than 10 percent of the profit.

The Union of Hopenow has a special focus on this group, but also on an increasing number of women from other African countries including Kenya.

People often ask me how do you do this work, day in day out with trafficked women, hearing their tragic stories and fighting the system. You must be such an optimist? I am sure someone has said this before, so my apologies for this plagiarism. My answer is that I am not an optimist but rather a prisoner of hope. I have faith that the goodness of the human heart will always prevail in the end, despite all the suffering and evil in the world.

In my everyday work with trafficked women I am privileged sometimes to be a witness and gentle guide, marveling at the ability traumatized individuals have to restore their equilibrium and at times even undergo a profound transformation. The ability for the nervous system, given the right environment, time and space to heal, is truly remarkable.

I wish to thank the people who trained me in Somatic Experiencing® (SE), a short-term, naturalistic approach to healing trauma developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, and I now integrate the SE approach into my psychosocial work. However, I am still confronted by chaos, despair and how the relentless stress of been denied residency, a safe haven, can eat away at an individuals nervous system like a hungry cancer. There is often so much beaurocracy, indifference and ignorance.

I provide assistance and trauma therapy to a wide group of women and try to treat each case as unique. One of my roles as a voluntary, consultant for the Red Cross, has been to coordinate various actors involved in trafficking cases, in order to try to develop methods that can be used as models for best practices

People can fall prey to trafficking at any point in the migration process. I have an increasing number of cases which reveal that rejected asylum seekers in the country of destination, for example Denmark, are contacted by traffickers who have patiently "groomed" them while they waited for an answer from the authorities.

The moment they receive deportation papers, the traffickers offer them the possibility of flight to a new country. Vulnerable people, then enter into a new spiral of debt that will often include forced prostitution or other forms of forced labour in a new country.

Human trafficking is very lucrative, because human beings can be sold many times by criminal networks and described as "High profits but low risk." Unlike other commodities like drugs or weapons, it is often impossible to prove that trafficking has occurred.

Victims of trafficking, often deny having been trafficked, as they are frightened of what the consequences will be when they are deported. They therefore often decide, that protecting the people who have smuggled or and trafficked them, is the best survival strategy in the long run. This is just one of the reasons, why it is notoriously difficult to gain solid convictions in this area and why the organization, union I have set up -- Hopenow -- supports a change in the law, to provide long-term protection and even residency, in cases of trafficking where the country of origin cannot guarantee protection from the criminal network which trafficked the person.

In the last 11 months having receiving an award for voluntary work in Denmark, I have provided a service to over 50 trafficked women, and over the years, hundreds more.

I cooperate with a wide group of partners N.G.O.s in Denmark and Africa, hospitals, the Red Cross, researchers, government organizations, prisons and the immigration services in order to achieve a professional service.

I want to thank all the people who have supported my work and all the new members and the members to come in Hopenow. Our task lies ahead and although it seems overwhelming I have faith that together we will succeed.

It is up to us to make Hopenow grow into a dynamic, alternative organization that strives to provide a professional service for trafficked women, working together with other dedicated people and also forging links with people and organizations in Europe and the rest of the world; doing what I call the blood, bones and flesh of the social work.

In my opinion too much money is often frittered away on vast administrative costs and governments have far too much emphasis on the façade of help but do not employ enough workers, providing direct, action and strong interventions to help these women and girls.

I really hope that we can all be more informed, reflect and take part in an ongoing debate as a result of this excellent film that Anja Dalhoff risked so much to make. Truly independent, documentary film makers are essential in a democratic society and unfortunately are a dying, breed in an increasingly commercial world.

It was a great privilege to be consultant and narrator for the film and I am glad that my decision to go to Nigeria was correct, despite massive opposition that resulted in dismissal from my work. This struggle and conflict, I am now deeply grateful for, as I would never otherwise have formed the union of Hopenow, which I believe will grow and flourish.

"The greatest tragedy is not the brutality of the evil but rather the silence of the good" -- Martin Luther King.

-- From Michelle Mildwater, psychotherapist and project leader for www.hopenow.dk/
Consultant and narrator, Trapped
April 24, 2008

Watch: Part 1 | Part 2

Making the film "Trapped" was a shocking experience for me. I spent two years observing the trafficking enviroment in Denmark and other parts of Europe, researching for the film.

I met Michelle Mildwater, a British psychotherapist working with these women in the streets and brothels of Denmark. Together we roamed the red light areas and witnessed the growing group of African and Eastern European women standing on the ice-cold streets, forced by the criminal network to prostitute themselves in order to pay off their debts.

Through Michelle I got in contact with the two Nigerian women, Anna and Joy. I felt really priviliged when they agreed to cooperate with me to make the film. They said they wanted people in the world to know about their suffering at the hands of pimps, madams and the legal authorities in Denmark.

I was deeply affected when I visited Joy month after month, imprisoned as a common criminal and was witness to her tears and desperation. She said to me so often: "I only asked for help and now I have ended up behind bars. Why am I being punished like this?"

Anna and Joy were deported to Nigeria and Michelle and I followed them home.

Nigeria was a great challenge -- the grinding poverty, the polution and the constant danger were overwelming and made filming very difficult.

I was hardly ever able to film in an open way and I had to improvise by placing a hidden camera in a shoulder bag with a hole cut in it, so I could film on the streets of Lagos and Benin city.

In Nigeria, Joy and Anna encountered new problems every day and I followed their
struggle for survival. I realized that the traffickers do not just give up their victims easily and I also discovered the cruel way their families were threatened. And the psychological terror of voodoo.

It was terrible to see how a womam returning to her own country, remained a fugitive and had to live underground moving from place to place.

We had hoped an organization would be willing to protect and rehabilitate these needy women but without funding there was no possibility for this to occur and it was clear to me that there was no well organized, coordinated support provided for trafficked women.

Despite this, Joy and Anna were determined to stay in Nigeria and resisted being trafficked again Anna had said once that I would rarther eat sand in the desert than stand here on the ice cold streets of Copenhagen.

Many women, however, succumb to the intolerable pressure put on them and return to the streets and brothels of Europe. My question is: When can we ever hope to end the cycle of trafficking and retrafficking? When if ever will we put a stop to 21st century slavery.

-- From Director Anja Dalhoff
World’s Untold Stories showcases courageous correspondents telling intimate stories of society's most vulnerable people. Often gritty, always powerful tales that open our eyes to a world that is at times disturbing and captivating. Storytelling that is raw and unyielding in its impact. World’s Untold Stories will bring the viewer tales from all corners of the world, and shine light on activities almost never exposed.

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