Taking my mind back to my life in Europe as an illegal immigrant, I find it hard to believe that I am the same person today financially free and a business owner. My story is worth telling.
My name is MERCY ITOHAN, and I am a 35-year-old single mother, from Orhionmwon local government of Edo state. I lost my parents long ago before I was trafficked in 2011 on the promise of a job in some African shop in Italy. My traffickers took me to Ivory Coast by land before flying me to Europe.
In Italy, I was shocked to find out that the promised job was prostitution for which I had no choice if I had to survive. In addition, I was also sexually abused by my trafficker’s husband who not only impregnated me but forced me to abort the pregnancy. By a stroke of luck, I escaped from them and when I heard that women who had children were supported by the Italian Government, I got pregnant to a Nigerian man whom I met and dated. As expected, the Italian Government started paying me a monthly stipend of 60 Euros but after a while this became insufficient to take care of my needs.
When I learned again that the government of neighboring Switzerland took better care of immigrants, I moved over to Switzerland with my child. Here, I was getting 20 Euros weekly, but after two years, the Swiss authorities returned me to Italy. In 2017, the Italian authorities repatriated us back to Nigeria: me, my two children and, their father.
Back home, life was not easy for me. My children’s father sold the bus I had struggled to buy from my savings – intending to use it to run a public transportation business – and used the proceeds to travel back to Italy, leaving me behind to fend for myself and my children. Things at this point became very difficult for us. I even began a fish barbecue business but abandoned it due to the high cost of buying fish.
In August 2021, Edo State Task Force against Human Trafficking referred me to Caritas Nigeria where I was profiled and trained on fish farming for two weeks. After the training, their STEM project empowered me with a tarpaulin pond, 200 juvenile fishes, 11 bags of fish feeds, and the sum of N10,000 for logistics.
Starting on this good note, I reared my first set of fishes and realized N106, 000 when I sold them. This encouraged me to restock 250 juvenile fishes immediately. The fishes are now mature and I have been able to use revamp my abandoned fish barbecue business.
I make an average of N25, 000 daily selling 15 barbecued fishes. As of May 10, 2022, I barbecued 60 out of the 250 fish that I restocked and realized N100,000. I plan to pay for a bigger pond in my compound and stock up to 650 fish since I have a ready market for it.
Running a fish barbecue business where the fish is sourced from the owner’s fish farm makes a lot of difference that translates into higher profits and reduced operational costs. I no longer have to go to the fish market daily.
Life is a lot easier because my income is steady. I can afford to pay my children’s school fees and give them a better quality of life even without the help of their father who has abandoned them.
My landlady had insulted me last year because I paid my house rent in installments. Bot again: I have enough money to pay for it at a go when it expires in June 2022.
I am so grateful to CARITAS Nigeria and GIZ for the opportunity they gave me.