The longest journey of Joy Amen Omoruyi

El viaje más largo de Joy Amen Omoruyi
25 marzo, 2020
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20 octubre, 2020

Joy Amen Omoruyi alongside with Eva Leoz Muruzábal and Amelia Tiganus, during the self-defense feminist workshop organized by Acción Contra la Trata (ACT) in 2017


Joy Amen Omoruyi is the real name of a woman from Edo, a recurring place for the sex trafficking in Nigeria with Europe as final destination. As many Nigerian women walking in our streets, she was a victim of human trafficking with purposes of sexual exploitation. In fact, only in the Autonomous Community of Navarre, the constant flux of women thrown into prostitution is estimated to be around 700 to 800 distributed among apartments, clubs and the streets.

Following the path of thousands of women  leaving Africa every year, Joy decided to come to Europe as the last option she could think of to get her family out of the poverty and precarious conditions of her home-country: “the suffering of the families is enormous so, in the end, you have to do something to help them out”.

It all started when some people offered to help her for the trip in exchange of money. The truth is that she was being deceived by the traffickers on the promise of a job as hairdresser in Europe. According to them, she would make money easily, so she would be able to pay them back the loan in just few months.. Joy made the same trip followed by many Nigerian women  captured by  networks of human  trafficking. She first started the travel to Libya, partially by car and partially walking through the desert where  she remembers crossing with authentic caravans of people traveling both ways . Once in Libya, she embarked towards Italy in a small wooden ship crowded with 60 other people. “It is a trip in which your life is on the line all the time and you know that the chances of survival are very small. Many of my companions died during that trip”, says Joy. After arriving in Italy, she traveled to Austria, her final destination.

«It is a trip in which your life is on the line all the time and you know that the chances of survival are very small. Many of my companions died during that trip»

Joy Amen Omoruyi

What Joy didn’t know at that time is that she was part of the massive migratory movement that had been alerted by the International Organization for Migration – OIM. This organization reported that the victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation that arrived in Italy through the migratory routes had increased 6 times between years 2014 and 2016. Most of those women came from Nigeria, where 80% of the young women between 13 and 24 years old are potential victims of trafficking, according to the organization.

Once she arrived in Austria, she was introduced to “the mommy” (her procuress) who  forced her into prostitute on the streets of Vienna in order to make her pay for the disproportionate load of bringing her to Europe. Even after working for two years in this city, her captors were imposing her an amount of 20.000€ of remaining debt. So, after numerous very painful experiences, Joy decided to escape to Norway at the cost of risking everything she got, including her life.

When Joy was running away from Austria, she didn’t know that her destination was going to change drastically from what she had expected. Her way to Norway included a stop in Pamplona where there was supposed to be someone she knew to pick her up and help her. Nevertheless, once she arrived at the bus station, nobody answered the phone, and she found herself completely alone in a strange city with nowhere to go. After wandering in the streets asking people here and there,  she managed to  arrive to the Homeless Shelter. And after being interviewed by the police, it was clear for Joy that she had been a victim of sex trafficking during all those years.

«We deserve respect. We women are mothers, sisters, friends. How is it possible that there are men that make use of us like this just because they have money in their pockets and we don’t have any other choice?”».

Joy Amen Omoruyi

Joy was then moved to an agency that is devoted to support women that have suffered from abuses like Joy’s. Getting to Pamplona was a turning point in Joy’s life shortly after, she began to participate in activities with Acción Contra la Trata where she met many other women (such as the –also-survivor and activist Amelia Tiganus) that helped her to recover from the shocking and brutal experiences of her past. Now, together with these women, they have created a group  so-called  Las Poderosas – Women in Power, which has been working for some years already with the main objectives of serving as a meeting point for other women that have passed through many different experiences of violence, providing them empowerment, training and support. It hasn’t been easy to reach some kind of normality in my life, she says. Despite that it’s been some time since she escaped from the streets, overcoming the psychological trauma of these kind of experiences, is not easy: “That’s life. In this life, you have to be yourself, you have to fight for yourself and fight for your children, sons and daughters, because no one else is going to do it for you”.

«That’s is life. In this life, you have to be yourself, you have to fight for yourself and fight for your children, sons and daughters, because no one else is going to do it for you».

Joy Amen Omoruyi

Currently, Joy Amen is an activist for the rights of women victims and survivors of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. She supports the mediation and sensitization work in ACT, and she is part from the very first steps of the group Las Poderosas – Women in Power – Femmes au Pouvoir. She insists that it is essential to spread this information, and talk about this reality. It is very important to create consciousness among the population about this modern type of slavery. But also this information is crucial among the women that are forced inside this type of abuse: “Most women don’t realize that they are victims of sex trafficking while the truth is that they are just being used. What kind of people forces you to prostitute yourself and take all the money from you? Women barely report it because the traffickers make them believe that they are being helped”. She emphasizes that procurers will always attract people in vulnerable situations, and sometimes, some women even reach the traffickers as they can’t see any other options. She says: “I was aware that what I was doing in the streets was not good for me, but I really felt that I had no other option to survive”.

She remarks how small are the chances for most women in Africa to get a normal life. They barely have access to education while at the same time they must take all the family responsibilities: “We must create consciousness among women and the people in general, that we women deserve respect. We women are mothers, sisters, friends. Women deserve respect for themselves. How is it possible that some men can use us like this just because they have money and they take advantage that we are optionless?”. Now, her aim is fighting against that reality, trying also to prevent younger women to fall in a trafficking network: “I’d like to send the following message to the younger women: don’t believe traffickers, they don’t want to help us, they just want to enrich themselves at our expense”. 

«Most women don’t realize that they are victims of sex trafficking while, the truth is that, they are being used. What kind of people forces you to prostitute and take all the money from you? Women don’t report it because they think that they are being helped».

Joy Amen Omoruyi

Joy’s is a true story,  though a very unusual to be told.. The world is full of missing women that are gobbled up every day inside this maelstrom in which millions of souls and anonymous bodies transit their way into objects ready to be used by the consumers of prostitution, and sadly, most of these stories won’t be told. Joy’s life will be different from the life of her companions; some of which were lost on the streets, the desert or the sea. And, it is possible that her longest journey begins now, but this time, it will be a story of fight for the rights of women. Our only wish as society is to rise to the challenge of her cause. We must believe and value their message when they gather the courage to come out and speak, we must support them in the fight and open the eyes to the silenced exploitations that are still taking place next to our homes on a daily basis.

«To the younger women, I’d like to send the following message: don’t believe traffickers, they don’t want to help us, they just want to enrich themselves to our expense»

Joy Amen Omoruyi

A report from Satoko Kojima Hoshino.

Translated by: Evee Wright Perez. With the collaboration of Claudia Hawks, Roberto Chavez and Jose Ilberto Fonseca Jr.

Group of the Feminist Self-defense of ACT, 2017. Participants: Amelia Tiganus, Nora Otsoa de
Olza y Eva Leoz, next to Joy Amen Omoruyi and other companions.


For more information…

Las Poderosas have started to show their work as a group of women. The participation in debates, talks, forums, etc. strengthen the group and, at the same time, encourages the audience for the understanding, awareness and dialog, from the self-experience and from the strength of all the women that fight for defending our rights.

We are part of a group of creation, since we make use of the artistic expression as a way of personal   and social change. Part of our work this year has been focused on the creation of a short documentary: “We have a dream”, the story comes as a result of the encounter of women whose lives began in faraway places,  that gather to talk about dreams, desires, fears and fights. During the creative process, we have turned our looks back to the past, towards our origins, to our deepest wishes, rescuing that part of us that once wished things that we thought impossible. From that inner search we have directed ourselves towards the future, asking ourselves about our potential, the possibilities and barriers that we will undoubtedly find. “We have a dream” is a breath in this journey whose final destination is yet unknown and is, at the same time, a celebration, a coven for our right to dream.

There is an ocean between survival and fulfillment. And the bodies and ships that populate the bottom of that ocean tell countless stories of those who tried to cross the only bridge that gives enough courage for get into such feat ; hope. Therefore every story of migration is a story of hope. A story that is often told only by the ones who made it. 

We Have a Dream. Sinopsis

We invite you to know about our work and to contribute to the social transformation by giving voice to Las Poderosas.

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You can contact us through the phone number 601474292 and the email address:

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