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Advocacy Project Blogs - 2006 Intern: Jessica Sewall

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Pre-Arrival Perceptions of Lagos

Posted By: admin

My guidebook on Lagos, Nigeria has left me with expectations and perceptions of the culture and city that I am sure just scratches the surface of actually breathing it and living it. Nigerians are apparently "snappy dressers," and I recently bought some new clothes to prepare for hot weather yet modest attire so as not to show my knees and that will be washable by hand.

The streets I expect to be crowded with buses and taxis moving at a turtle's pace in one of the largest cities in Africa. As I will be arriving June 1st at 5am from my connecting flight through London, I wonder if the city will be more quiet than usual or still bustling.

In casual conversation with two separate taxi drivers (one from Ethiopia and one from Somalia) here in Washington, DC, I was told by both that Nigeria is the worst country in the world. When I went to get my visa at the Nigerian embassy this past week the gentleman assisting me looked at me skeptically, laughed, asked me if I was really gong to Nigeria, and responded with more laughter when I told him indeed I was. This all leaves me more intrigued and curious than I had been before, and more determined to share the inspiring work that is being done and hopefully contribute to a more positive perception of the country.


Preparing for June 1st Arrival

Posted By: admin

I am excited with anticipation to begin work with the Women's Consortium of Nigeria on human trafficking. The UN reported on their website that tens of thousands of Nigerian girls are trafficked to other countries in Africa and to Italy. They also reported that an estimated 40% of street children living in Nigeria have been bought and sold at one point in their lives. UNICEF has a great website about child exploitation in general: http://www.unicef.org/protection/index_exploitation.html

I am eager to learn from WOCON the efforts being made on the supply side of trafficking, and to work with the partner organization in Italy (TAMPEP) working on the demand side. The business of selling human beings is reportedly the third most lucrative trade after arms and drugs. I am currently reading, and recommend to anyone interested, the book "Illicit" that addresses the economics of these issues.

Expectations of me for the next three months in Nigeria include conducting an assessment of WOCON, assisting with web content and newsletters, developing relationships with Italian and US points of contact for transnational policy discussion and a speaking tour in the fall in DC, and surveying safe houses where deported girls are returned to in Nigeria.

There is also an educational component of providing information to community partners within the United States. A group of very inspiring and motivated high school students at Blair High in DC will be following the blogs and creating a student group to discuss human trafficking issues. Georgetown's Student's Stopping the Trafficking of Persons (SSTOP) will also be following the blogs and hopefully engaging in campus outreach for education on the issue of human trafficking in Africa.

I think the most valuable aspect of this will be learning from WOCON and encouraging collaboration across international borders and fostering interest within the United States. I can't wait to get my feet wet!

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Jessica Sewall is an intern with AP's partner organization, WOCON.

Jessica has completed her first year as a graduate student at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute pursuing a Master’s in International Policy and Development and a Certificate in Humanitarian and Refugee Emergencies. Prior to commencing her graduate degree she worked for the City of Milwaukee on an outreach campaign for work support benefits for low-income families.

She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, dividing her final year with a semester in Ecuador and a semester in Chile. In Ecuador she was a part of a team of ten students that conducted a needs assessment and census survey of a small village outside of Quito and worked with community leaders to acquire potable water, sanitation services, education, and the construction of a community hall. She is currently focusing on gender and development and post-conflict reconstruction in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is writing her master’s thesis on the economics of human trafficking and the impact on development.

The Women’s Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON) was established in 1995 as a national NGO for the advocacy of human rights, specifically in the area of women, children, labor laws, and human trafficking. This summer the Advocacy Project (AP) and WOCON are working together with another AP partner in Italy (TAMPEP) to combat human trafficking.

The main goals will be to open lines of communication between WOCON and TAMPEP to integrate work being done on the both the demand and supply side of human trafficking. This will be done through information sharing between the organizations, preparation for a speaking tour with the directors of each organization in Washington, DC in the fall, and regular dissemination of information to the public for the promotion of education surrounding the issue of human trafficking via the internet and education awareness campaigns both in Nigeria and the United States.

Jessica will be focusing specifically on performing an assessment of WOCON in the areas of management, technical capacity, and operations in order to better assist WOCON in capacity building in the future. She will also be updating WOCON’s website, training a staff member to continue updates and regularly post information, expanding visits to the website through linkages with partner NGO’s, and blogging on her experiences.

In addition, Jessica will be developing outreach materials, assisting in the research and surveying of safe houses in Benin City where victims of trafficking are deported to upon return to Nigeria, and implementing a project for awareness with a local university student group in Lagos.

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