Giving Voice to the Voiceless
Willow partnered with Pepperdine Law School and the Human Trafficking Institute to host the first ever Prevention of Trafficking Persons conference in Uganda. The two-day event involved policy recommendations focused on protecting victims, preventing this crime, and prosecuting human traffickers.
At the conference, Willow was honored to give our brave survivor, Adie*, a platform to advocate for justice in front of 150 high-ranking government officials. Large sunglasses and a scarf with the words “I love Jesus” covered Adie’s head and face as she stood before the room packed full of the country’s most powerful leaders. Adie’s Willow case manager sat on her right, holding her hand tightly. To Adie’s left sat three other brave survivors of sex trafficking. The room was silent as she took the floor.
“I never knew my mother,” I don’t know what she looks like.”
Through tears Adie recalled that in her early twenties she had been a hard worker—that all she ever wanted was to get enough money to purchase the shop where she was employed. With this goal in mind, Adie left her son with a cousin and went to Dubai to work in a restaurant advertising a $500 monthly salary.
When Adie arrived in Dubai, she was thrown into a room with five other girls, ages 15 – 17. Her new boss took all of their passports and drove the girls to a salon. He altered their appearances so drastically that none of them recognized themselves in the mirror. Adie asked her boss, “Why do I need to look like this to work in a restaurant?” Her question went unanswered.
Adie was trafficked for sex for the first time late the following night. As the oldest of the six captive girls,
she felt helpless and unable to protect any of them. The girls were beaten so severely that night, they didn’t know if they would survive. The exploitation and abuse continued for months.
When Adie and her peers were finally rescued, they were jailed in Dubai before boarding a plane to Uganda. She couldn’t wait to hold her son in her arms, but she soon realized her horror story was far from over. Adie’s trafficker was at the airport waiting for her with armed men. The trafficker had kidnapped her son and threatened to kill him unless Adie went to Thailand to make more money. “So many girls died,” Adie said of the next several years of being trafficked between Thailand and Malaysia. “I watched so many of them die in front of me.”