Sunday, 16 August 2015

Unsung: Bukola Oriola (Bringing the Story Back Home)

Bringing the Story Back Home is a one week tour of several private and public universities in Nigeria aimed at educating the youths on how to shield themselves from all forms of human trafficking. This is the initiative of Bukola Oriola, a survivor, an activist, a journalist, an author and the producer of the, 'Imprisoned Show', a show that features service providers, experts and law enforcement agencies that victims can reach out to. Ms. Oriola is also the brain behind the 'Enitan Story', a nonprofit organisation with mission to provide advocate for human trafficking victims, as well as empower them. Enjoy this exclusive interview with Ms. Oriola and be sure to reach out to her if you have any support to make to the project. You wouldn't know how much your little support can be worth.  
 About Bukola Oriola (little biography):
I wear many hats. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. I had my primary education in Lagos, my secondary in both Ibadan and Lagos, and my OND at the Polytechnic, Ibadan. I worked as an education reporter for six years before coming to the United States in 2005. Now, I am still a student. I am enrolled at the Metropolitan State University, Minnesota. I am responsible for running a nonprofit organization, The Enitan Story. The mission of the organization is to advocate for victims and empower survivors of human trafficking and domestic abuse. I produce a TV show called Imprisoned Show to shed light on the issues of human trafficking and domestic abuse across the world. I am also involved in a hair braiding business, Bukola Braiding, which I now use to teach others how to braid or start their own business. That is why I said that I wear many hats.

What 'Bringing The Story Back Home' all about:
Bringing the Story Back Home is a human trafficking awareness tour to enlighten the Nigerian youths through the colleges about the menace of human trafficking. The title of the event came about as a result of my own personal experience as a victim and survivor of human trafficking in the United States. Youths are always energetic and looking for opportunities at home or abroad. My goal is to equip them with proper information of how to prevent themselves or their loved ones from becoming victims. I have learned from experience that anybody regardless of status, career, education, even place of birth can become a victim of human trafficking. There are many on student visas who are victims of human trafficking.  There are also many on spousal or other forms of visas that become vulnerable. Sometimes, some become victims of domestic abuse, and at other times, they are exploited for their labor or sex. I believe that education is the greatest tool for prevention. More so, youths are armor bearers in the community. They can take the message to their immediate community, either to the younger ones or older folks. Basically, the idea of the program is to prevent human trafficking through awareness.

Motivating factors behind 'Bringing the story Back Home':
The motivating factor is personal experience. That is why I have also invited two survivors to join me on this trip. Most of the time, when people hear the phrase, “human trafficking” they think prostitution or sex. However, human trafficking is not just about sex. In fact, sex trafficking is only one form of human trafficking. There is labor trafficking. There is also organ trafficking. More so, I have received calls from several Nigerians here in the U.S. and Nigeria asking for help for themselves or someone they know. It is important to know the signs to look out for. Aside from the youth, there are several older parents suffering in the hands of their children here in the U.S. There are cultural differences that result into cultural shock, and, depending on where you end up in a country like the U.S., you can become isolated very quickly, which can lead to depression. I believe that when the youths carry this banner, they will be able to educate the older folks. For example, graduates partake in community project during their National Youth Corp Service. They can choose human trafficking as their community project to educate the community they have been posted to serve.

Why the choice of proposed higher institutions to tour for the 'Bringing The Story Back Home':
I chose higher institutions because they are armor bearers in the community. College students, regardless of age are very energetic whenever they are together. Having attended college at various schools in Nigeria and the U.S., I have learned that whether a college student is 19 year old or 59 year old, he or she works with the group to form a unified team. These groups of people will not only be able to educate their fellow students, but also their respective communities.

What do you wish to achieve with the 'Bringing The Story Back Home' project?
I hope to have the student body form one voice against abuse and exploitation of any form including human trafficking.

How supportive family and friends has been to the project:
My family and friends have been very supportive of the project. They have been helping me behind the scenes. And, I must say that I have a very large family that includes people that are not from my country or tribe. I am grateful for my church and college communities.

Talk about the 'Enitan story':
The Enitan Story is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with a mission to advocate for victims and empower survivors of human trafficking and domestic abuse. Founded in 2013 the organization has recorded success in providing both direct and referral services to victims and survivors in Minnesota and across the United States.
The services of the organization include community outreach through public presentations and Imprisoned Show, a TV show produced at one of the Public Access TV stations, North Metro TV in Blaine, Minnesota, Survivor Empowerment Sewing Program, Community Garden, and Empowerment Circle.
Imprisoned: The Travails of a Trafficked Victim is a memoir that chronicled my own personal experience as a victim of human trafficking. In my case, it was labor trafficking. It is also termed familial trafficking becau

Do you have plans to continue the 'Bringing The Story Back Home' project?
Yes. Bringing the Story Back Home will be a yearly program because a one-time event cannot make the desired impact of education. It has to continue every year where we will evaluate to see what is working and what is not. In addition, we want to be able to spread the word across various community members that will develop into having a coalition and task force that will be working with the national Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). I am very grateful for NAPTIP and the U.S. Consulate’s collaboration on this project. There are training materials that we hope to share through the Office of Victims of crime (OVC) in the United States. This first year is for sensitization and understanding the people’s knowledge on the subject matter. Our long term goal is to see a network of students beyond Nigeria carrying the banner with one voice against all forms of abuse and slavery.

What are the plans?
The plans are to visit six higher institutions this year, University of Lagos, Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu, Yaba College of Technology, Bells University, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, and Caleb University, Ikorodu. During the visit, we will train staff, students and the community members about the dangers of human trafficking and how to identify a victim or how to seek for help. We hope to connect with local NGOs and international organizations represented in Nigeria to join us to work with the student community as this project grows.

What has doing this project done for you?
Doing this project has helped me to give back to my communities here in Minnesota and Nigeria. I have learned a lot and still learning in the process of organizing this event.

How do you define happiness?
I believe that hope brings happiness regardless of who you are, where you are, or what you may be going through.
You can reach Bukola Oriola and team BTSBH on,
Periscope: @BukolaOriola 
Hastags: #BTSBH

 You can suggest other Unsung persons, you would wish to read here,
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