After fleeing the Lord’s Resistance Army in her native Uganda, Igoye came the University of Minnesota. There she began finding resources to combat the scourge of human trafficking. Igoye was so determined to make a difference that she stopped buying food—choosing to eat at university events instead—which allowed her to save money. With her first $1,000 of savings, she supplied her native Ugandans with 23,000 books, knowing that education is an essential part of improving communities and stopping human trafficking. Through the Clinton Global Initiative University, Igoye is committed to building care centers for survivors of human trafficking and training law enforcement to better recognize and combat the illegal activity.
Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/agnes-igoye-how-a-ugandan-is-fighting-human-trafficking-in-africa-and-in-the-us
Transcript: I had parents who believed in me and made sure I went to school—walking a long distance—and it has always been about challenging myself to go for it. So I was really excited to be a student.
So fast forward. I had to work hard to get to university. And I’ve been a student all my life, because even when I work I continue being a student. I still go off. So my activism was really intertwined because looking at how it all began when I got into the field of human trafficking: It is in Uganda. It is in America. It is in your backyard. It may manifest itself in different ways.
As I was growing up, for me I was confronted by the Lord’s Resistance Army, the use of children in conflict. I have done some state tours. I have done the state of Colorado, New Jersey, and I went to Las Vegas. And wherever I’ve gone I’ve seen one of the biggest problems in America is runaway children.
There’s that age where—traffickers know that, they rely on that vulnerability—that age when teens think that their parents are not so cool and they run away from home. So there’s always somebody, you know, to grab them and take them through a different path.
There is trafficking in agriculture in this country, among even immigrant population. But also among the locals themselves, sexual exploitation. From city to city I’ve come across victims of trafficking whom I’ve spoken to. I’ve spoken in various audiences, and after I’ve spoken I’ve seen these girls, especially, come to me and confide to me what happened to them in their situation.
So it’s everywhere. We just have to pay attention. We have to learn and empower ourselves with knowledge.
In my country Uganda we have, like I said, children in armed conflict. We have sexual exploitation. We have forced labor. They use children for street begging. We have removal of organs. The trade in human organs. We have removal of organs for rituals and exploitation, where somebody—to construct a building like this, the witch doctor tells you, “you have to kill somebody and spill some blood so that you can become rich.” People believe in things like that. So those things are real, and they happen around the world. We just have to pay attention and see how we can be involved.
When I got the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative and made that commitment of action to counter human trafficking, I knew I needed to build a rehabilitation center for survivors of human trafficking. I knew I wanted to take books, so that even children can have an education. And I remember then thinking, “Okay, how am I going to do this?!”
Because I had really huge goals! I wanted to build that center. I said I was going to train law enforcement, and I started off—I was going to train one thousand law enforcements [to recognize signs of human trafficking], and I was a student.
And I knew that, to train my reinforcement, to take books, and to create a rehabilitation center I had to be creative. Because here is a student who comes from Africa, you’re in America, you don’t have any money to implement this huge project.
But in my university what I found out quickly was that there was a lot of food at the university! So you’d go for student events and many times the food just goes to waste. So I said, “Okay, this is an opportunity for me to save money.”
So I started saving money, which I would have used to buy food, and I used to eat food from school events (and, of course, you can take takeaway), and I saved one thousand dollars. And so with one thousand dollars I went to Books for Africa, who are based in Minnesota, St. Paul.
So I went to them I said, “Listen, I want to take a container of books to Uganda.” That’s 23,000 books, that’s how I started. And I had never done fundraising before, but thank goodness when we had the Clinton Global Initiative they told us how to raise money for your commitment.