“Education can help to end child trafficking”
Child labour, Child trafficking, Global Youth Ambassadors, Spotlight On ...
The Global Youth Ambassador from Nigeria talks about her own background and the role education can play in tackling the exploitation of young people.
Franca Afolabi is on a mission to raise awareness about child trafficking. The 25-year-old from Nigeria is also one of Theirworld’s network of Global Youth Ambassadors, who work to end the education crisis in their communities and globally.
In Lagos state, she also visited slums while volunteering with the youth leadership initiative Leap Africa in one of their Youth Day of Service programmes. There Franca helped to distribute sanitary pads to young girls and make them more knowledgeable about the health benefits of using them instead of rags during their period.
In the latest in our Spotlight On … series on inspiring people, we talk to Franca – who currently lives in the United States – about her background and the issue of child labour and trafficking.
Tell us about your journey to becoming an education activist.
While I had always been interested in advocating against child trafficking, I soon realised that this problem would be impossible to solve without education. According to studies, one of the leading causes of human trafficking is a lack of education. Child trafficking will be reduced if society invests in decent education.
Why is spreading awareness about child trafficking important to you?
I grew up in a neighbourhood where child labour was commonplace. Children, particularly females between the ages of seven and 17, are used as domestic helpers in practically every rich home. In some instances, these girls were victims of sexual exploitation.
Nobody seemed to care, which surprised me as a young person. After learning about this, I chose to pursue a degree in mass communication because I believed it was the most effective approach to inform the rest of the world and advocate for these children, particularly those in the Benin Republic.
To me, it is imperative that every child grows up in an environment devoid of fear, where they can strive to be the best they can be.
How can supporting education help end child trafficking?
I believe that education is the most effective tool for bringing about positive change in the world. Lack of education leads to fewer job options and a lack of or limited awareness of rights, which traffickers take advantage of. Furthermore, early childhood education can equip youngsters to change their communities as they get older, making it more difficult for traffickers to operate.
Is there an experience that motivates your work?
Several years ago, I got to speak with a girl who was a victim of child labour. I heard first-hand the experience she had gone through and how it continued to negatively impact her today. This really broke my heart and I felt powerless to do anything. I think of her every day and she motivates me to make a difference in the lives of victimised children.
Why did you decide to become a Global Youth Ambassador?
I needed a platform to extend my reach. I wanted to impart positively in the lives of every child I met and I needed to reach as many children as possible globally.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Winning the American Association of University Women International fellowship in 2021 is one of my proudest personal achievements. Another achievement was launching my YouTube channel in 2021.
What change do you hope to see?
I aspire to live in a world where every child is treated equally and has the same opportunities for happiness and survival. I wish to live to see the day where education is valued the most. I look forward to the day when sustainable policies to end child marriage are implemented.
What's your advice to young people who want to be campaigners and advocates?
Your voice is your most valuable asset. Don’t let fear keep you from speaking up. You will have situations, stories and encounters that would have you question your safety and sanity – but don’t relent because people depend on you.
What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned outside the classroom?
Opportunities are transient. You must seize them as soon as they present themselves. Because regret is a tiring emotion, I have learned not to let my background and experiences deter me from going after what I want.