Blessing Okoedion had a business fixing computers in Nigeria. She had graduated with a degree in computer science and sought to apply her skills anywhere good opportunities presented themselves. The next good opportunity to present itself was a job at a computer store in Spain. After landing the job, Blessing got her papers, packed her bags, and headed to Spain. But when she got there, she discovered something devastating: there was no job.
The 26-year-old found herself a victim of human trafficking in Europe. The jobs she though she landed was a hoax to get young women like her to Europe. Her captor told Blessing she now owed them 65,000 euros and sent her from Spain to Italy to become a prostitute in order to pay the money back.
Being the courageous woman she is, Blessing went to the police few days after being forced to work in the streets in Italy to report what had happened to her. The police then took her to a home run by nuns against trafficking, Casa Ruth. From that point on, Blessing has worked to rescue other victims of human trafficking.
On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, meet Blessing Okoedion, whose tireless work ensures survivors, especially Nigerian women + girls, can access the services they need to heal & reintegrate into society. Blessing’s voice is critical in the fight to #EndTrafficking. pic.twitter.com/X0LNm8LnHQ
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) July 30, 2018
Recently, Blessing became one of ten people honored by the US State Department at the 2018 Trafficking In Persons Report launch ceremony in Washington, D.C. She received the State Department award “in recognition of her extraordinary courage in using her lived experiences to…prevent human trafficking [and] her selfless efforts to assist survivors and lend a helping hand to those still subject to the crime,” said Kari Johnstone, acting director of the Sate Department’s Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Blessing travels between Italy and Nigeria to combat human trafficking. She goes on rescue missions and connect women on the streets with medical care. For those who choose to stay in Italy, the organization helps them go through the process of legally staying in the country and finding work. For those who choose to travel back to Nigeria, Blessing often accompanies them on the trip back through the Italy-based organization Slaves No More. Blessing also travels to rural areas in Edo State in Nigeria to teach women and girls about the tactic traffickers use to lure women into Europe and beyond.