Ana from Moldova
This is the story of Ana, a survivor of human trafficking, whose story of courage to overcome the most challenging obstacles serves as motivation to all who work in the field of combating human trafficking.
The cycle of violence for Ana began when, as a young girl, she was submitted to regular and painful beatings from her father. "If my father was just a little kinder, I would not have gone through this situation," says Ana. "One day, when he severely beat me, harsher than usual, I decided to run away from home. I did not care where to. I just wanted to get away from pain. I was ready to work day and night, to live in the most difficult conditions."
At the age of 12, unable to continue submitting to the abuse, Ana fled from home to a neighboring village. Those who 'helped' her run away to a supposedly better life were traffickers. Seeing how helpless Ana was, several people from a neighbouring village offered her a job abroad.
"I did not even ask where I was going," recalls Ana. "I was promised a job and money for food. I was sure I was getting away from trouble. I even thought that I'd make some money, return home and help everyone, including my father."
Forced to beg on streets
As soon as she arrived at her destination - which turned out to be Poland - Ana realized that none of the promises would be fulfilled. The traffickers forced her to beg on the streets. There were other girls from Moldova, Ukraine and Romania, as well. Every day they had to earn $100 dollars. They were severely beaten if they got less.
"I was beaten up even worse than at home," says Ana. "I thought I would never escape violence."
'Any slap is followed by another'
Ana spent five years begging in Poland. She finally managed to escape and was returned home by the local police. Out of pity, her father did not beat her for a year. Gradually, her life improved, and she met the father of her future child.
"I was very happy when I found out that I was pregnant," says Ana. "But he left me when I was six months pregnant. He never came back. My father started beating me up again. The fact that I was pregnant did not stop him. This is what hurt me most."
After all she has been through, Ana has decided to bring up her daughter alone - and most important, never to let anyone abuse her again. "Any slap is followed by another one. If you accept the first slap, you accept all of them," she asserts.
Ana's story is like those of thousands of women around the globe who have experienced domestic violence. In most instances, the ones abusing them are people they love - fathers, brothers, husbands or sons. Such violence is often a precursor to trafficking and exploitation.
Assistance to victims
Ana and other women in similar situations have received assistance at the Materna Centre, in Chisinau, Moldova. This UNICEF-supported service helps them rebuild their lives. Here Ana can bring up her daughter in peace and benefit from free food and accommodations.
Meanwhile, child protection specialists try to find a long-term solution for the young mothers - including a home and a job. "Victims of violence within the family are not aware of complaint mechanisms available to them. Specialized services for them remain limited," says UNICEF Project Officer Viorica Cretu. "UNICEF is supporting the Government of Moldova's efforts in strengthening the system's capacity to prevent and combat violence against children and women - and to provide necessary protection and assistance to victims.
UN.GIFT is currently involved in victim assistance projects through its Small Grants Facility which funds projects, centers and re-integration programs such as the one which helped Ana.