When I was 6, my father asked me, ” what do you want to be when you grow up?” I responded, “une avocate,” which is lawyer in French since I lived in a French speaking country at the time.
Growing up I always knew that I wanted to “fix” the world through social justice. I wanted to understand why certain communities didn’t have access to certain opportunities and resources while others thrived and didn’t even notice the difference.
I was blessed to have been raised in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire by a supportive and loving community of extended family and friends. When I moved back to the States to continue middle school and high school, I still knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I graduated and attended Smith College, an all women’s institution, which equipped me with the tools to show up as a leader in any field I chose to pursue. I spent my junior year abroad in Paris, France, where once I again I noticed the inequities that plagued society specifically as it related to “people of color.” I matriculated law school, graduated and started down the traditional path of working at a firm but I always knew I wanted more. That feeling came in the realization of my biggest goals – a dream manifested. I applied for a Fulbright Fellowship and received placement within the Ministry of Justice in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, working in the human rights section.
During my stay in Abidjan, I was once again confronted with social inequalities that existed in places such as Europe and the United States, where I had worked and lived. However, this time I noticed that everyone was of the same race but different ethnic backgrounds. I started to question the role of socio-economic status especially looking at marginalized populations that would send their female children from the rural parts of the country to work for more affluent families in the city. It reminded me of my experience in Abuja, Nigeria, while on a law school service trip focused on eradicating human trafficking. We examined the pauperization of the female population and it was then that I made the connection between culture, gender roles and patriarchy. This knowledge informed my decision when I applied and started working at Duke Women’s Center.
Understanding the role that human trafficking plays in our daily lives as been eye-opening because it’s the United State’s “dirty little secret” that no one wants to talk about.
Silence will not save us and this trip is one of the first steps to breaking the silence.