Photo courtesy of Awah Francisca Mbuli

CAMEROON: I Survived Human Trafficking and I'm Changing Lives

After suffering abuse and being held captive in a foreign country, Awah Francisca Mbuli has dedicated her life to fighting human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

I am on a mission to help as many girls and women as I can from succumbing to the same fate.

When I left Cameroon to pursue my master’s degree in Norway, I never thought I would become a victim of sexual abuse and human trafficking.

Like many in Cameroon, I dreamed of traveling abroad. I arrived in Norway in 2010, in search of greener pastures. I felt like I had made it big, but I didn’t have a clear plan for survival.

After two months in the student hostel, I couldn’t find a job and I had spent all the money I had on me. I helped a couple take care of their 9-month-old baby girl day and night in exchange for food. Yes, just food.

I started looking for a church where I could meet African brothers and sisters who were also living in Norway. I thought I might find a connection to a job so that I could save up money for school and for my family back home. I found an African church, but no one could link me to any opportunities. Eventually, I could no longer pay my rent and I became homeless.

When the assistant pastor of the church, a 50-year-old man, offered me space in his apartment, I thought I was lucky. Everything went well for a week until he started approaching me for sex. I was so disappointed that this man of God, a man I trusted with my problems, would turn around and pressure me for sex just because he was housing me. It was winter and it was snowing everywhere; I had nowhere to go, no one else to provide a roof over my head. I was forced to play along with his demands.

I cried in my quiet moments. This wasn’t me, I thought. I was desperate and vulnerable, and I had no one else to turn to.

After almost a year of abuse, I stopped having sex with him. I was just tired of it and it had to stop. I even locked my door, but he would knock on it for hours. To punish me, he refused to give me food or cash for my bus cards.

One day on my way back from school I received a text from my abuser saying that I would have to leave his house. After spending two nights in the train station with no destination in mind, I contacted a girlfriend who I had befriended online. She and her dad drove a long distance from the north of Norway to pick me up. After a whole day of driving, we finally arrived in their little town.

I knew I was too far away from my school to continue my studies, but I thought a new dawn had come. I was happy to be in the comfort of a Norwegian family that was ready to accommodate me. I sang songs of praise.

I did not know that my friend would leave the house only a week later. She left me with her dad, a 58-year-old divorced man. He was so nice at first, but later he started making sexual advances, just like the man from the church.  

I stayed with him for nearly a year until I started having mental problems that almost took my mind away. I was depressed and losing it. I needed to return home to regain my sanity.

Back in Cameroon, I was far from my abusers, but my ordeal was not over. I couldn’t cope with the unemployment and poverty all around me, and I began looking for a way out of the country again.

In May 2015, a middleman in Cameroon promised to connect me with an opportunity in Kuwait. He told me I was going to teach English on a good salary. I wasted no time; I compiled my documents and prepared to leave.

When I got to the airport in Kuwait, I was introduced to my employer and told I was going to work as a domestic servant. I thought I had already experienced so many shocks in my life, but this was the biggest shocker. I had no choice but to follow him, put on my domestic servant uniform, and begin work.  

The working conditions were horrible, but I decided to manage as well as I could. Nearly three months into my stay, the worst happened.

One day, while my employer’s wife and two sons were away on vacation, my employer asked me to help massage him. He claimed he slipped and fell on the stairs. He said the doctor advised him that he should be massaged on his buttocks. I refused to do it, advising him to go to a spa to get a professional massage.

He told me that I should remember there is no “No” in the dictionary of his house. He would not accept my refusals and he forced me to massage him. After two days of massages, he tore my housemaid dress and raped me. He continued to rape me throughout the next week until I managed to run away from his house. I found refuge at the Central African Republic Embassy in Kuwait.

After reaching out to many humanitarian organizations fighting against human trafficking, an organization in New York City called Freedom For All paid my return airfare to Cameroon.

Now, when I look back at all that I went through, it makes me cry. But I am also looking forward to my future. I intend to use my story to change the lives of as many girls and women as possible and this gives me hope.

The five years of sexual abuse I endured from three different men may sound like an unrealistic movie, but this is what happened. After going through all of this, especially this last ordeal in Kuwait, I felt a spark of zeal in me to fight against all these wrongs.

I now run an organization called Survivors' Network in Kumba, Cameroon. Our organization is made up of female survivors of human trafficking who have come together to fight against trafficking and modern-day slavery. We use all available media to warn people about human trafficking and to discourage parents from sending their children abroad without a properly defined mission. I also have gone door to door and made radio and TV appearances at home and abroad to talk about my personal ordeal.

Surviving simultaneous human trafficking and sexual abuse is difficult. But now that I have come out of it and am working against it, I am on a mission to help as many girls and women as I can from succumbing to the same fate. The events in my life have led me to where I am now. Today, I have the opportunity to free girls and women from the shackles of slavery and trafficking—first in Cameroon and then, hopefully, all around the world.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller!  Learn more.

 

How to Get Involved

Awah Francisca Mbuli invites you to follow the work of Survivors' Network on their website www.survivorsnetwork.co and on Twitter and Facebook

 

Story Awards 38Send Me Love

Comments

My dearest sister,

My heart is crying for you both tears of sadness and you. You are more than a survivor . Am so sorry that you has to go through what you went through. But am happy that you have come to terms with it and that you are now using your story to help other women who are going through what you went through. Not many women can tell their stories to help others in this world. So I strongly appauld you. I pray that you will get over it. Talking about what happened is good therapy for your soul. Stay blessed my dear sister and always remember that we are always hear for you. Keep us posted on the things that happen in your community.

Stay blessed

Mrs. Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi Head of Legal and Advocacy Centre for Batwa Minorities a.kiddu@gmail.com cfmlegal@gmail.com Skype: mrs_muhanguzi

You're welcome, but you are the one doing all the work:-) Let me know if you need more help, encouragement, etc:) I'd love to hear an update on how the extra attention/coverage has helped your organization/cause. Best wishes...:-)

Awah, Thank you for sharing your story despite your ordeal. You are a courageous woman who is using her setbacks and disappointments to inspire others. May your mission be successful to dissuade those who want to travel without clear cut plans and ideas of what exactly they want to pursue. One love Arrey www.joy2endure.com

Arrey

Dear Away,

Thank you for being so brave and true!  Please keep up the good work of saving women and girls from sexual exploitation and abuse. 

Love & Light,

Aramide

Heal the World; Make it a Better Place!

My dear sister, I understand when you speak about your ordeals. Most girls who travel to Europe without a plan end up being forced to do nasty things. Thank you for speaking out. I pray your message has an impact on tens of thousands!

Iya

My sister dearest, 

You are a brave woman. 

Thanks for sharing your story with us. More importantly,  thanks for your decision to empower other women too. You are a beautiful soul. 

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale Founder/Project Coordinator Star of Hope Transformation Centre, 713 Road, A Close, Festac Town Lagos-Nigeria https:

Dear Awah, as I am reading your story... I believe that this makes you more strong.  The experienced you had will be useful in your next journey of life.  And at the same time, you will be a blessing to others who had the same experienced.

Connect with a heart.  Live a life of empowerment. Influence to accomplished.

 

Dear Awah, you are so brave , so fearless.Thank you for picking up the broken pieces of your life .Keep inspiring others and keep transforming others.

Salute!

Leonida

My dear sister,

Sorry for what happened.Although your story broke my heart, i am happy you are a fighter and conqueror. Thank you for the fight to free others. You are a true Heroine. Move on

Awah, you have amazing strength! I am so glad that you have decided to use your harsh experiences to rescue and prevent other girls in Cameroon from falling into the Human Trafficking danger. You are one in a million and together we are strong!

 

Gladys Muthara,

Empowering young women through digital & Internet Literacy 

My dearest Sister 

I salute your courage, while reading your story I was feeling like i was there with you, when you were crying for a help, when you were thinking of ways to run from there, when you were looking for a shelter and when you were hungry, I can feel your pain, all of us here on World Pulse went through a pain and World Pulse is a healing power for us,our pain has given us a courage to keep our other sisters safe from such horrible life experiences, you are a real heroin, I love you sister you are amazing, keep growing and remember that you are sisters around the world who love you and who admire you.

Sister Zeph Founder & Chairperson ZWEEF

Winner of World Pulse Lynn Syms Global Prize 2014

What a story! It's amazing that you have come out of this so strong, as I'm not sure that many women would have had the courage to get through it. Thank you for using your experience to help other women in the world. Total respect to you.

Hey dear I am Majorie from Cameroon.Your story has touched the deepest parts of my heart.How I wish so many people out there could use their voices n telling their stories.This will go a long way in ceating an awareness cos there are so many young girls and women going through this same ordeal.Keep your head up high cos i know God has a plan for you and you will definitely achieve your goals and dreams.Stay Blessed

Dearest Majorie, 

Thanks for all the sweet and encouraging words.

please where are you base? So that me and my team can touch base to sensitize the women, children and entire community on human trafficking, modern slavery, child ka Our and many social ills affecting the vulnerable.

Best,

Francisca Awah

You brave and beautiful women  Thank you so much for being brave and forward looking encouraging and supporting other victims After your ordeals Well done Please keep it up!!

Dear Awah,

Your story is very touching and inspiring at the same time. It takes begin a special breed of a person to willingly share a story of weakness turned to strength like yours. Keep up the good work. Best wishes.

Cheers

Eseoghene

i am sadden by the events in your life, i am glad you are putting up a good fight,God bless you

NNENNA HANNAH METU

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