In-depth Story: How Francisca Awah Mbuli Escaped Modern Slavery and is Helping Other Women do the Same

Once back in Cameroon, Mbuli sought professional help to cope with the trauma she had endured.

“I always felt like someone was calling my name because in the last home I worked in, the three sons and their parents would all be calling me at the same time to do things for them,” she said. “So for a long time after I got home, all I would hear was, ‘Francisca! Francisca!’ in my head, and I would get so confused because I wouldn’t know who was calling me.”

Her psychiatrist advised her to tell her story without reservation. That would begin the healing process, he told her.

Mbuli took his advice.

“I started with my family. I shared my story and showed them the pictures I had. Then I went to my neighborhood and went from door to door telling them what happened to me. I went to the villages because those are areas traffickers target and trick parents into sending their children to greener pastures. The community was responding well, and that gave me the zeal to continue.” – Francisca Awah Mbuli

This was the beginning of what would grow into Survivors Network Cameroon – a foundation that rescues, empowers victims and survivors of human trafficking. The organization also raises awareness of trafficking through campaigns.

Mbuli’s organization has guided the rescue of over 500 women from sub-Sahara African countries. Survivors Network has also paid for the flights for 28 women escaping captivity, with the help of Freedom for All.

“We have also done internal rescues. I actually have one room in my home for runaway maids. When they escape from wherever they were trafficked, they find it difficult to go back to their families because their families would have sacrificed everything to send them away. So when the maids return, they are seem as failures,” Mbuli said.

Survivors Network also works with internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Cameroon who have fled their homes due to the political and human rights crisis in the anglophone Southwest and Northwest regions of Cameroon.

According to United Nations, at least 160,000 people have been internally displaced in the two affected regions.

Mbuli said internally displaced persons (IDPs) are especially vulnerable to traffickers.

“Due to this crisis, a lot of people in the villages have lost their valuable properties and relatives. Our organization now works to give them life again,” she said.

Image courtesy of Francisca Awah Mbuli

To this end, Mbuli and her team travel great distances to deliver food to those in need. She also travels locally seeking any and every opportunity to warn people about trafficking. She has been covered by numerous media outlets, including CNN’s Freedom Project.

She was recently honoured with the ‘TIP Report Hero’ for her efforts in the fight against human trafficking in the presence of Ivanka Trump and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

After seeing her receive national and international recognition, Mbuli’s trafficker reached out to her through someone she knew and threatened to kidnap her son if she mentioned his name, Mbuli said.

“I sent a message back with his friends to tell him I wanted to meet him one-on-one, so I can give him money to buy a drink because I studied human rights and multiculturalism in Norway, and I’ve always wanted to work in an international organization,” she said. “So, thanks to him trafficking me, I’m starting to realize my dreams. Despite all I went through, it all happened for a reason, so thanks to him.”

Survivors Network’s greatest need is for funding to continue their efforts to rescue and support survivors of human trafficking, and internally displaced persons in Cameroon.

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