Esohe Aghatise

Many young girls tell me that my example shows them that a woman can make changes in her community. Even if changes are made in the smallest areas of everyday living, this will ultimately lead to bigger changes.

Esohe Aghatise was nominated for her work with victims of trafficking, immigrants, asylum seekers and indigent persons at risk of social exclusion and marginalisation. She stands in the very unique position of having both a theoretical background as a researcher and a practical background in her many years of experience providing services and support to victims of trafficking in Italy.

As part of her efforts to help those in need, Aghatise created the ‘Iroko Association’, which utilises the direct involvement of victims in creating and implementing various programmes designed to eliminate all forms of violence against women and children, with special attention to the elimination of the trafficking and exploitation of women and children in prostitution. Involving those directly affected in the resolution of their problems has proven to be a very effective method for obtaining efficacious and long-lasting solutions to such problems.

“I am most proud of having assisted women victims of trafficking to create a new life for themselves.”

A non-profit, apolitical organization, Iroko Association is able to carry out its activities in victim assistance and support thanks to Aghatise’s efforts and determination. Such support includes shelters, economic assistance, employment orientation, job insertion, assistance with housing, cultural mediation, clinical support, free legal consultancy on immigration matters, translation of documents and assistance to indigent mothers with small children.

On the national and international levels, Aghatise has worked actively to raise government awareness about the plight of victims of trafficking. She informed the Nigerian government of the high cost of new passports for escaped victims through the United Nations’ Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery in Geneva. This led to the reduction of the cost of such passports, thus making it possible for escaped victims to access legal documents and obtain legal status in Italy.

Aghatise made a 40-day trip to Nigeria in 2001 to assess the impact of trafficking on the country and on youths, and succeeded in obtaining direct contributions from affected communities on the best strategies to fight poverty and trafficking. Her trip resulted in the production of a short film entitled ‘Viaggio di Non Ritorno’ (‘Journey of No Return’), which is being used in Nigeria and in various other countries to raise awareness amongst young people and their families about the dangers of trafficking.

Aghatise created a unique system of treatment being used to assist Nigerian victims of trafficking in Europe to escape and throw off the chains of control imposed by the voodoo rites they are made to undergo. Through her deep knowledge and understanding of traditional local religions and practices in that part of Nigeria, Aghatise developed methods of helping victims who are psychologically enslaved. This has enabled many women to escape and, in many cases, assist the police in arresting and prosecuting their exploiters.

‘Little drops of water make up an ocean.’

In her fight against the trafficking of young girls and women from Nigerian and East European countries into Italy, Aghatise has been at the forefront of fostering human rights and protecting children, women, the disabled and other at-risk groups. Aghatise has also taken Iroko Association into the international arena, where it became a member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW). She has been a member of the Board of Directors of the CATW since 2008.