Friday, December 12, 2008

Idia thrives!

Idia, the 16th century mother of Oba Esigie, has been put to a new use. Lauded for her devotion and intelligent scheming to put her son on the throne, she is remembered as both warrior and witch. Now her powers are being brought to bear on the trafficking of women from Edo State to Europe for prostitution, particularly prostitution in northern Italy, where they are disproportionately a part of street life. This UN-sponsored poster is directed toward the trade in girls, although it and other public campaigns imply that overseas prostitution involves helpless girls who were deceived. While this may happen in some cases, many all-too-aware girls and even some married women eagerly "apply" to the madames who promise visas and dangle the hope of ready foreign exchange before them. They even swear oaths in Nigeria before leaving, pledging to faithfully fulfill their "contracts."

While they may not realize all the degradations that lay ahead, many have their eyes wide open when they make this choice. They are usually unaware, however, that the madames will make them repay every penny of their ticket, clothing, etc. with heavy interest, and that they will be on their backs to also pay for their accommodation, feeding, etc. Those who go ahead are willing to do so because there are few employment possibilities, and they see visiting "Italian women" flaunting their gold, building fabulous homes, and driving flashy cars during the holidays.

NGOs are trying to create more opportunities at home to discourage this flesh trade, and Idia has now been suborned to draw her iron brows together. She apparently frowns on Edo girls who abandon traditional values as homemakers and providers through legal trade, and it will be interesting to see how successful her role in the campaign will be. For more information, see the UNICRI website at

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