The US Consulate Lagos held its annual documentary film festival between the 19th and 22nd of August this year. The event brought together different films touching on important topics relevant to both the US and our home country Nigeria.
The Women at Risk International Foundation partnered with the US Consulate at this year’s event and led an engaging panel after the movie “I am Jane Doe”.
Directed by Mary Mazzio, the film explores the lengths that mothers took to wage a war on a sex trafficking website “backpage.com” which led to a court battle and an eventual change in policy. It highlighted the dangers of sex trafficking and the effects that it had on not just the survivor but her family and the community at large.
The panel, led by the founder of WARIF, Dr Kemi DaSilva Ibru featured the director, Mary Mazzio via Skype, a mother – Mrs Chioma Afe (Group head, Retail Marketing, Access Bank), Mrs Comfort Sanni (Senior Intelligence Officer, NAPTIP), Tobore Ovuorie (Award Winning Investigative Journalist) and Mary Joseph (Sex Trafficking Survivor)
It was an emotional but insightful session as the survivors discussed first hand, their experiences with the sex trafficking trade that leads to rape, physical violence, drug abuse and even murder. They also expressed the psychological effects these traumatic experiences had left them with. Mrs Sanni from NAPTIP highlighted the grave statistics of the number of young girls trafficked annually, with the average age of a trafficked girl being age 15 and the challenges the agency faces with successfully dealing with this very lucrative trade. Ms. Mazzio was also able to correlate these similar statistics and experiences met by young girls in the United States.
Dr Dasilva speaking on the event says: “It is important that we make available enabling platforms such as this event to have these conversations, as this provides the first step in identifying with the problem of human/sex trafficking so we can create an environment where the survivor is protected, sex traffickers and third parties are prosecuted and policies are adopted or changed to address this issue”
The session ended with an audience more aware of the prevalence of human trafficking, questions on creating more awareness to this issue were answered and all left with the promise of making a conscious effort to speak more and do more about these issues of Gender based violence.