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Saved from sex slavery in Saudi Arabia

Mary Joseph, 25, has literally been to hell and back. She is one of the many young Tanzanian girls lured into foreign countries, especially in the gulf, with promises of a good job and a dream income but which for her and many silent others, ended up in torture, torment and even death. 

Mary’s tale is that of a young innocent woman whose search for survival took her thousands of kilometers away, to Saudi Arabia, only to face a harrowing experience that continues to haunt her to date. The young woman from Misungwi suburb, in Mwanza region, agreed to share her story with the public in a courageous move to sensitize others on the reality of an underground human trafficking network operating in the country and preying on the vulnerable. She says she wanted to speak out and publicly share her personal experience so that the society and those in authority can take action to stop further exploitation of uninformed girls. Her story, she said, is to save young women and their parents or guardians from falling into the trap of the dangerous sex-slave network. She was motivated to come out by the recent story about the 500 Tanzania girls reportedly stranded in Indian cities of New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Goa after they were abandoned. The ministry of foreign affairs two weeks ago said the women aged 18 to 24 had been taken to India by job placement agencies but were turned into sex slaves. They came out to seek help to be repatriated home but the ministry’s spokesperson Mindi Kasiga last week said the government would not intervene as the women had gone there on their own volition. “I pity the young women crying out there because I can identify with their suffering. Like me, they may have fallen into the human trafficking trap but must now be regretting why they left home in the first place,” she told The Citizen outside her two room-rented house where she lives with her ailing mother and two other siblings.  

Mary says she left Mwanza as a 22-year-old woman in 2013 on a promise of work in Saudi Arabia but returned in May this year through war-torn Burundi as a refugee to escape three year’s life as a sex slave. The standard seven school dropout was a bubbling woman when she left to fend for her fatherless family but returned home sick and on empty pockets. “My dream of a good job from which I would save money to help my sick mother and the other children was crushed as soon as I landed in that foreign land and all I wanted for those three years was to get back my freedom. I would be dead by now if I did not return home. At my lowest point in Saudi Arabia all I thought about was death, I cared less about the crushing poverty back home,” she said.

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