As a Young Adults in Global Mission volunteer I served in the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, where I lived and worked at a women’s vocational center, ILOFAV, where women come and learn a trade. M and S are two sisters who took classes in sewing and cooking. Their hometown was a 3 day bus ride away and they had lived at ILOFAV for a year. At the end of the year, they didn’t know what to do or where to go. They were able to earn a little money as seamstresses, but needed something else for income. They couldn’t go back to their small hometown and they weren’t finding any work in the capital. Their friend told them about an agency that would send them abroad to work. They found out they could leave for Kuwait within just a couple of months of applying for the program. To them, it was a full time job that would pay them $200 a month. It was an opportunity. To me and to other expats, it was an example of human trafficking. M and S kept it a secret for a while, not telling anyone their plans of leaving. They told me that they knew people wouldn’t think Kuwait was a safe place for them to go, but to them they had no other option. They told me they were leaving 5 days before they got on the airplane. This is an example of what happens in a poor country where the government is corrupt. M is 26 and S is 23.
There are other women like this in Madagascar who think that it’s exciting to be able to work abroad in a new country and get so much money. But what they (and we) don’t know is that when they get there, it doesn’t matter what the contract says – they are at the mercy of their employer. And that’s what’s terrifying. People around the world need to know that human trafficking is a real thing and that it happens frequently. And sometimes the victims are willing to go, but they just don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. I hope and pray that people can become aware of the gravity of these situations and that we are able to find ways to stop it.
R.H. (aka Mama): Mama is the director of ILOFAV, the women’s center in which I lived and worked in Madagascar. Not only that, but she had so many other jobs and titles and leadership roles that I could never keep up with. She was a woman of humility and love and worked countless hours every day, hardly getting a break. Every day she would wake up at 5am. Sometimes even earlier. She would often fall asleep at the dining room table because she was so exhausted and sleep deprived. This woman is a powerful women yet never sought attention or recognition. I believe there are women like this all over the world. Women who work so hard for their family and their careers and their community and hardly are able to catch a break for themselves. These women ought to be recognized and thanked for all of their selflessness.