Monday, 20 June 2022 00:17

From forced prostitution to a thriving fish business back home Featured

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Mercy poses with wrapped barbecued fish Mercy poses with wrapped barbecued fish Emmanuel Nnacho
Taking my mind back to my life in Europe as an illegal immigrant, I find it hard to believe that I am the same person today financially free and a business owner. My story is worth telling.

My name is MERCY ITOHAN, and I am a 35-year-old single mother, from Orhionmwon local government of Edo state. I lost my parents long ago before I was trafficked in 2011 on the promise of a job in some African shop in Italy.  My traffickers took me to Ivory Coast by land before flying me to Europe.  

In Italy, I was shocked to find out that the promised job was prostitution for which I had no choice if I had to survive. In addition, I was also sexually abused by my trafficker’s husband who not only impregnated me but forced me to abort the pregnancy. By a stroke of luck, I escaped from them and when I heard that women who had children were supported by the Italian Government, I got pregnant to a Nigerian man whom I met and dated.  As expected, the Italian Government started paying me a monthly stipend of 60 Euros but after a while this became insufficient to take care of my needs.

When I learned again that the government of neighboring Switzerland took better care of immigrants, I moved over to Switzerland with my child.  Here, I was getting 20 Euros weekly, but after two years, the Swiss authorities returned me to Italy. In 2017, the Italian authorities repatriated us back to Nigeria: me, my two children and, their father.

Back home, life was not easy for me. My children’s father sold the bus I had struggled to buy from my savings – intending to use it to run a public transportation business – and  used the proceeds to travel back to Italy, leaving me behind to fend for myself and my children. Things at this point became very difficult for us. I even began a fish barbecue business but abandoned it due to the high cost of buying fish.

In August 2021, Edo State Task Force against Human Trafficking referred me to Caritas Nigeria where I was profiled and trained on fish farming for two weeks. After the training, their STEM project empowered me with a tarpaulin pond, 200 juvenile fishes, 11 bags of fish feeds, and the sum of N10,000 for logistics.Mercy

Starting on this good note, I reared my first set of fishes and realized N106, 000 when I sold them. This encouraged me to restock 250 juvenile fishes immediately. The fishes are now mature and I have been able to use revamp my abandoned fish barbecue business.

I make an average of N25, 000 daily selling 15 barbecued fishes. As of May 10, 2022, I barbecued 60 out of the 250 fish that I restocked and realized N100,000. I plan to pay for a bigger pond in my compound and stock up to 650 fish since I have a ready market for it.

Running a fish barbecue business where the fish is sourced from the owner’s fish farm makes a lot of difference that translates into higher profits and reduced operational costs.  I no longer have to go to the fish market daily.

Life is a lot easier because my income is steady.  I can afford to pay my children’s school fees and give them a better quality of life even without the help of their father who has abandoned them.

My landlady had insulted me last year because I paid my house rent in installments. Bot again: I have enough money to pay for it at a go when it expires in June 2022.

I am so grateful to CARITAS Nigeria and GIZ for the opportunity they gave me.

Story and pictures courtesy of Emmanuel Nnacho, Benin City

Read 238 times Last modified on Thursday, 30 June 2022 08:25

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