It is my sincere wish this note finds you and your family in good health. I hope that you are enjoying the last few remaining days of 2014. Throughout 2014, I have written to share with you what Alaffia has been up to and my own personal thoughts and reflections on the course of humanity towards justice for all. While some of my reflections are of a sad nature, they have and continue to propel me to continue the Alaffia journey. One thing both the Alaffia updates and my personal notes have centered on is the profound desire for basic human rights for all. Since this is the end of the year, I wanted to discuss with you one of the human rights abuses that persist in our society, and as we jump to a new year, we shall use this information to continue to create justice. As you know, there are many aspects of human rights, but my note will focus on one flaw I continue to witness in our West African societies. This is the trafficking of young ladies, which is an area of injustice that is very personal to me, as I have witnessed it first-hand.
Three years ago, while in Togo, my step sister was put in the local jail in our home town of Kaboli. It happened I was in Togo at the time, and I received a phone call that I must send money to Kaboli right away to bail my sister out. She had been jailed for trafficking a young girl of our neighborhood to Benin for domestic servitude. This created an extreme dilemma for me. I felt disgusted a member of my family would participate in such a trade. On the other hand, my refusal to help her financially would lead my family to see me as a cold person and my inactivity would bring shame on the entire family. The longer she remained in jail, the more time there was for the town to learn about it and create even greater strain on the family. Even though my sister’s actions went directly against my primary core values, I agreed to send funds to bail her out. I did this because she was the only one who knew where the girl had been sent and the only one who could help get the girl returned to her family. In exchange for the bail, my sister agreed to bring the young woman back to her family.
Today, a quarter of all the women that participate in Alaffia’s maternal health program are young girls that have been trafficked and returned with unwanted pregnancies. While Alaffia is supporting these women, it does not resolve this injustice. As I have alluded already, the root cause of this is poverty. And, while poverty does not justify such inhumanity, as I have seen over and over, when people are in deep poverty, morality is deflected and decisions are made that keep individuals and communities in poverty or prevent chance of a better life in the future. I see how entrenched this practice in in our society, but remain hopeful that the creation of economic opportunities for these girls and their families will put an end to it.
As for my sister, I gave her a small loan, and she now trades agricultural good, grains and yams, in Kaboli and surrounding villages. She no longer participates in human trafficking. As for me, my decision to pay for her bail continues to bring internal conflict but affirms my dedication to continue to mitigate these practices in our societies. Since the day I bailed out my sister, I have been working harder than ever to reduce this practice in my country through providing economic opportunities and social empowerment to reduce poverty in our communities.
During this holiday season, I plead to you to improve something in your neighborhood that you see as morally wrong. We as a human family cannot and should not allow for such practices that make our fellow sisters be treated in such a manner. Those of us who do not live under poverty conditions must do everything we can to reduce the pain of the lives of our sisters. The only way we can reduce this suffering is if each and everyone one of us, regardless of geographical location, does something.
Finally, please accept my deepest gratitude for all that you have done in supporting Alaffia to enable us to continue our dedications in Togo. I wish you a very joyous and peaceful holiday.