2014 Caroline Lacey – “After Trafficking” These photographs are copyright Caroline Lacey and are used here by permission. They may not be used elsewhere without her permission. Benin is a source and destination country for trafficked children. It has moved from a Tier 1 to a Tier 2 placement, showing the country’s lack of compliance with national standards and reflecting a growing problem. The child slaves are used for purposes of forced domestic and commercial labor, including child prostitution and numbers are estimated to several thousand each year. With no law preventing trafficking Beninese children are forced into labor internally and to other countries in close proximity including Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, and Cameroon. Severe corruption and the unwillingness of government to prosecute traffickers have allowed for the continued growth. These are the young girls who have been rescued from trafficking and are trying to reintegrate into the world through a small NGO’s work and commitment to them. They live in a group house where they are mentally and physically treated. They learn basic skills from reading and writing to cooking and soap making for future careers. With only a few figures of authority they find care and family within each other. It is a place of deep trauma but carries the promise of youth and a willingness to survive. —– Caption: According to an NGO that serves Benin’s enslaved youth, almost all children seen working in Cotonou’s markets during the day are domestic slaves. In Daktokpa, Cotonou’s largest market, a young girl selling vegetables takes a moment from her work to look at look at the city from up high on a bridge. Human trafficking in Benin is getting increasingly worse as law enforcement can be corrupt and laws prohibiting trafficking are weak. One of the only aid to these young people come from NGO’s. This young girl has been living at a home called Zogbo, a center for trafficked girls. Once the girls are in the center they go through intense psychiatric therapy and often times medical treatments. Learning to live in the new community takes a great deal of adjustment for them. The home is a lifeline for the girls but is still imperfect in many ways. With only a few “tatas” (aunties) to watch over them, any form of real nurturing must take place between the girls themselves. Finding a way into the family that the girl’s created is not always easy for newcomers. A precious pack of gum was given out and dispersed by the older ones. This girl waited patiently but it was gone before she got a piece. She chose to spend the rest of the day apart from the others. Although the created family may be hard for the girls to break into at first, it is beautifully loving and supporting once they do. Here one of the girls fell ill with flu-like symptoms and needed an IV drip. Her friends all sat with her until she was calm enough to sleep and be on her own. Tata Jacqueline brushes the hair she will braid onto one of the girls. Jacqueline is an attentive and understanding caretaker. She also grew up without a family and fled to Benin during the Rwandan genocide. The girls are grooved in hard labor. They still have to work hard to live at Zogbo but now the work they do is for themselves. Between classes, daily chores and cooking the girls have time to do something they didn’t in their previous lives, play.