My name is Jana
This is my first blog in the UN.GIFT.HUB and I thought that a good way to introduce myself and the work that I do would be by sharing the statement I delivered at Panel of Survivors at the UN Human Rights Council, last June in Geneva. I hope this is only the beginning of a long and fruitful dialogue.
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery "Little Prince" -
And I am, at the moment surrounded safely by these amazing individuals, that I deeply admire and that I can only look up to, because they are all brave enough to look with their eyes, see with their hearts, and act with their energy and power.
My name is Jana. I was born in Bosnia. I am 30 years old, and I am very grateful for the invitation to be part of this special event and share my experience and thoughts.
What I am about to share is like a short movie compared to numerous other stories of trafficking survivors, and each day I am extremely well aware how lucky I was, because every other day spent in that horrible cage consumes another piece of you... your freedom and your humanity. Violently.
My story happened in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where I moved in September 2004. I moved there to continue my university studies. I was alone, distant from all the friends I had, from the world that I knew and then, I quickly found myself surrounded by strangers.
One of my new friends, a girl, she said her name was Romana, offered me to stay in her apartment, since at that moment, I did not know where I am going to live... She was so very kind to me and supportive, so I entirely trusted her.
I was looking for a part-time job to support myself during the school year. One day, in October 2004, she came home and told me that she had organized an interview for me at an accounting firm.
After that, I never saw Romana again...
The next morning, I went to an office where I sat down for an interview with a woman. The interview had lasted about 10 minutes when two men entered the room and dragged me away to a car. I was screaming and resisting.
I was taken somewhere blindfolded, then raped many times and beaten because I was resisting.
I was drugged with heroin. All my things were taken and I was forced to wear sexually provocative clothes.
I was forced to do prostitution in Ljubljana...for about 4 months...
I had 6-10 customers each day and night, and changed around 10 different locations in the period I was captured. Men who came to me were coming from all age groups, social standings, educational backgrounds, employed or unemployed, often policemen or criminals.
I was starved sometimes, raped at first, later only sometimes beaten.
I was driven from location to location blindfolded and naked, only covered with a white sheet.
I was repeatedly threatened in order to obey them, especially by the life and freedom of my little sister, who is now 16, and I was constantly reminded how easy it is for them to put her in my place.
At the end of January 2005, I escaped my traffickers. I remember that day was quiet and nobody was coming to my room. For hours. The person that helped me with my escape was the same person that was selling my services and the services of the other girls. A woman that worked on the telephone, the same that interviewed me the day they captured me. She slid my passport under my door some days before the day I escaped.
That was my exit.
Today, we live in times where slavery is still all around us. As we move forwards or strive to move forward in providing more freedom and equality and basic human rights for all, we have on the other side this horrible fact.
Do we really need millions more victims in order to experience a true wake-up call? I really wonder. How many more 13 year old girls, your daughter, my sister, our children, need to be
forced into prostitution, how many more need to choose it on their own, for those who create the demand, those who manage supply and those who draw profit out of their bodies and lives?
When will we stop to maintain our economy by enslaving and abusing the poor, the weak, the vulnerable? How many more will be put into the number of some statistic, what number is high enough in this age of cruellest slavery?
When will we all stand face to face with this issue? When will we really admit it?
I hope we all know that ignorance and silence means engagement in the crime.
How can we prevent it? Only together. And we are in this together. It is our responsibility.
It is our personal business.
These are our girls and boys. These are our children. Our mothers and fathers.
And this is our world.
We should all start displaying serious understanding about and clear attitude against trafficking and prostitution and their roots. They are completely interrelated and therefore we can not treat them separately in any way. One encourages another and one is part of the other.
Remember that most of the girls, that are presumably choosing to become a prostitute, are underage girls (13, 14). That is human trafficking too!
Governments, legal institutions, media, entertainment industry, army, medical and educational institutions, and all others that have powerful influence need to display clear and understandable attitude, views and laws about these issues, educate, provide information, encourage action, discussion and involvement, be a true trustworthy role-model.
Projects should be encouraged and financially supported, especially those local community projects whose aim is to raise awareness, educate and engage people in all fields. From the ground to the top we need to create network. From governments, legal, medical, social institutions, businesses to schools, local communities, individuals. We have to involve all.
Traffickers are extremely well connected. We need to be too.
We have to create safe spaces and support in all fields for victims and survivors.
We need to develop victim/survivor centred intervention methods to help them. Each survivor is different; we need to design each intervention method specifically to meet her/his needs.
Clearly and urgently, the spot light needs to be moved to the clients, the creators of demand, and to those who collect huge profits. We need to bring them out of the shadow, hear their names, we need to see their faces and hear about their crimes. And they have to be held responsible for their actions. On the other hand, I believe we should try and approach them, the clients and potential clients, educate them, raise their awareness.
The actions against those involved in this criminal activity should be publically announced and shared. People should be encouraged to report and give information, to be involved.
And they should be clear about where to report it.
Media should not ever scandalize survivors and their stories, but relate to empower them, hear their stories and share their wisdom and strength with the public. In this way, let them use their incredible inner power to raise awareness. Involve those who wish to break the silence. Nurture those who need the silence. Educate and be educated.
At the end, let me just say, that we refuse...
We refuse human trafficking, We refuse prostitution,
We refuse violence, enslavement, manipulation, We refuse it All.
We still cry, but our tears are tears of power.
And We will give all our best to make contribution in any way We can...
To end it All.
And let us grow into something better.
Jana was born in Bosnia, lived in Croatia, and was trafficked for sexual exploitation in neighbouring Slovenia. Jana was tricked by a female "friend" and consequently abducted, raped and drugged by two men whom she thought were interviewing her for a job in 2004. They kept her passport and kept her locked in different private apartments, violated her if she misbehaved and forced her to perform sexual services to clients on a daily basis. Jana was able to escape from her traffickers in 2005.
Jana has since become a human rights advocate against trafficking, speaking out publicly in the Balkans and elsewhere to raise awareness of all people to the dangers of trafficking. Jana uses art as a form of raising awareness about human trafficking. She has contributed her drawings and writings to form a manual produced by women's rights groups in Croatia aimed at young people to inform them of the dangers of trafficking for sexual exploitation and involve them to take responsibility and act.
Jana is currently living in Berlin and writing a play of her experiences as a trafficked woman with the insights and truths that this experience provoked. She is also joining different initiatives as a speaker in order to raise awareness and encourage active involvement of all in combating modern age slavery.
The Survivors Blog section is an open space for discussions on human trafficking offered by the UN.GIFT.HUB.
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