Awah Francisca Mbuli


I am Awah Francisca Mbuli.
I was a trafficked victim.
I survived.

Today I work tirelessly to make valuable contribution towards the elimination of human trafficking and all forms of violence against women.

I was born in Kumba, the South West region of Cameroon. I am the first and the only girl child of a family of three children. Though not able to get all the basic needs in life, we lived happily as a united family until our ‘oil well’ suddenly ran dry. My beloved mum, whom we always see as the ‘oil well’ in the family passed away in 2019, may her gentle soul rest in rest.

My early childhood was not different from that of most African children living below poverty line today. But despite the odds, I was very fortunate to obtain an Advanced Level Certificate, stayed home for a year and then pursued a degree in Business Administration.

This achievement didn’t come easy, I had to support my ever-working mum who sold vegetables on daily basis to put food on the table and pay our fees. I would go to the market early in the morning to assist my mum before school. Despite this I came top in my class on many occasions.

I say I’m fortunate because my younger brother was withdrawn from school after his Ordinary Level certificate so that Benjamin my brother could attend secondary school. My family could not sponsor both siblings in secondary school together.

My journey to Norway began when a middle man commonly called in Cameroon as ‘docu man’ approached and assured me that I can obtain a visa to study in Norway if I pay him $6000. Being desperate and with the fantasy of being able to make millions of francs in a single month in Europe, my family used our family house as a collateral to secure a loan. With the money available, the ‘docu man’ was able to get me an admission into Buskerud University College (now the University College of Southeast Norway), Drammen, Norway. I was so excited when my visa was issued, to me; it was a beginning to the end of my suffering so I thought not knowing it was the beginning to a new kind of suffering.

The first six months in Norway was very stressful, because I was required to pay a fee of $16000 each year and I had signed up with a Cameroonian scammer who paid the money and I would have to work and repay him with interest. This forced me to connect with other Cameroonian women whom I thought could link me to jobs. But all these women offered to introduce me into prostitution which I refused. My refusal provoked them, they lied to me that there was a job for me in Oslo, but when we got there, they beat me up. I became even more desperate. My rent at the student hostel expired and I had no money to pay rent.

The sorrow upon me was recognized by an assistant pastor in an African church that I was attending. He walked to me after a Sunday service and asked why I looked troubled and offered me a room in his house after I explained my problem to him. I was so happy that I now had shelter only to realize days later that the shelter was not for free. The assistant pastor started walking into my room to abuse me sexually as his reward for housing me. Being weakened by my desperation, I gave in but later on decided to put an end to it by resisting.


My resistance got me thrown out of the house, as it provoked the supposed man of God to text me after leaving for work that he does not want to find me in his house when he returned.

I started sleeping at a train station while trying to make friends online. This effort connected me to a 26 year old Norwegian woman who told me she was leaving with her 58 year old dad and they have a spare room. On my 5th day of homelessness, they came to my rescue. But after a week in the house, the 26 year old woman disappeared leaving her father and I in their house. Her absence became an opportunity for her father to make advances towards me. Being desperate, I gave in to him. In confusion, I decided to talk about it to some Cameroonian girls I considered good but they advised me not to look at it as an abuse. They told me to see it as an opportunity to get my papers. I hit to their idea and told the man about it and he accepted to marry me so I can have papers, its during this process that we realized that the ‘docu man’ who got me the admission and the visa had submitted a document in the process that stated that I’m married to a man I don’t even know. With this barrier, the man paid for my flight to return to Cameroon in 2012.

While in Cameroon, I got engaged to a man and we had a son. In 2015, a man came to me with another opportunity to teach English in Kuwait. My experience in Norway made me skeptical but he showed a picture of a girl he claimed to be his girlfriend. The picture showed the girl with many kids and he told me they are kids she is teaching. This encouraged me to engage in his proposal especially when he said I just need to spend $1400 and I will be earning thousands of dollars a month. These sweet words convinced my fiancée and I and he had to sell his bus to raise the money for the trip hoping that my job in Kuwait can buy another used bus within 3 to 4 months.

While in Kuwait, I realized that the promise of a teaching job with good salary was bait to lure me into Kuwait where I was sold as a slave. To put it simple, I was trafficked to Kuwait by using fake promises. In Kuwait, I served three different masters. There was a house where the children immediately rejected me because I was black and I was returned the same day. In another house, I was sexually abused by the husband on multiple occasions.

While with my last employer in Kuwait, I was able to use a phone which I used to connect with new friends on social media. This connected me to a Cameroonian woman who told me she had been in my shoes and will help me to escape from the house I was enslaved.

Being a victim of human trafficking I faced some challenges after I was rescued. My life upon my return was completely different from the life I had before leaving Cameroon.

There was shame of being trafficked through fake promise. It made me see myself as a stupid person who has been scammed.

A significant way human trafficking affected my life was the constant hearing of voices, calling my name just as I used to be called at random in one of the houses I worked in. This became serious that I had to be taken to a specialist who was able to prescribe me effective drugs to stop these voices. Though this treatment was expensive, I considered it invaluable to the regaining of my right state of mind.

The experience with human trafficking made me realize that human trafficking does not only affect the life of the victim negatively, it equally has a serious effect on the lives of the children of the victims. For example, my son spent years without having physical contact with me from a young age . The result was not just the child lacking motherly care; he was also losing memory of me and seeing his grand mum as his mother. This was evident when I return from Kuwait and my son had to take some time to connect with me as he did before my departure.[/vc_column_text][vc_gallery interval=”3″ images=”2879,2880,2881,2882,2883″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1621806512032{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

How can someone identify those who have been trafficked?

Identifying a trafficked victim can be a bit difficult since most of them are either locked up in houses with no access to communication devices and freedom of movement. But if you were able to meet people randomly and wants to identify a trafficked victim, it is important to observe how worried the individuals are, it is equally important to observe if they want to be noticed because they are some foreigners who are stressful because they lack legal permit to stay in a country and they often do not want to be noticed especially by law enforcement officers.

What are the complexities of human trafficking?

From my experience, some of the complexities of human trafficking arise from the fact that most of the agents operate legally in the destination countries and the governments in these countries have little or no interest to protect immigrants. This is particularly true in Muslim countries where women are seen as second class citizens. With the law of such destination countries already reducing a woman to almost a slave, it is difficult to persecute a man who abuse you physically or sexually.

How do you work with women who have been trafficked?

Our support begins from psychosocial support, temporal shelter and then empowerment.

Recently all our staffs were introduced into Psychosocial First Aid by Dr Didier of W.H.O. This introduction gave us the privilege to provide psychosocial First Aid during the event when the victims of the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy were mourned in Kumba.

With such experience, my team is now able to calm down recent trafficked victims and refer those who need intense psychosocial support to recommended professional.

Our assistance to these victims is usually done by collaborating with other organizations such as Freedom For All among others. These organizations mostly provide the finance needed to provide temporal shelter and empowerment. In return, we always provide a report on how their donations have been spent including photo and video evidences.

As an organization, we equally carry out sensitization campaign as a proactive approach to prevent human trafficking.

Leave a comment