Bukola Oriola, of Anoka, was one of 11 human trafficking survivors appointed by President Barack Obama Dec. 21 to serve on the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.
A native of Nigeria, where she worked as a journalist, Oriola was trafficked by her husband (a U.S. citizen) while living in Anoka County. He controlled her life and all of the money she made for two years, she said.
With a passion to provide services to victims and survivors of human trafficking, Oriola said she is now living “as a helper rather than a victim.”
She created The Enitan Story through which Oriola offers the kind of support and advocacy she knows others need in order to move on.
Responding to her appointment to the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, Oriola expressed her profound gratitude for being selected to serve as a voice to victims and survivors of human trafficking in the United States.
“I will like to commend the United States government. President Barack Obama and his team have listening ears,” she said. “They maintained the position of power with such grace. Having power is not by oppressing the weak but by giving grace and opportunity to the weak. They took a great step to elevate those that have been trampled upon, beaten, battered and hopeless, by giving them a historic platform to be part of the positive change in the community.”
Oriola also said she hopes to use her experience and perspective to help shape policies and services for victims of human trafficking.
“I want to help the government to understand better how to provide services for those who have been victims of trafficking of all kinds: labor, sex and human organ trafficking,” she said.
Although meeting dates for the newly formed U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking have not yet been established, Oriola said she and the other council members will meet in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5.
“The dates will be set soon after that date, I believe,” she said.
In a press release issued by the White House, Obama stated: “I am honored that these talented individuals have decided to serve our country. They bring their years of experience and expertise to this Administration, and I look forward to working with them.”
The Advisory Council on Human Trafficking was mandated under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. Included in the act is the Human Trafficking Empowerment Act, which affirms the importance of survivor input and expertise in order to implement federal policy and programming that is effective for survivors of labor and sex trafficking.
Membership in the council is diverse, as recommended by the National Survivor Network, a survivor-led organization in which Oriola is a member.
According to the National Survivor Network: “NSN advocated that diversity of membership should be the first priority. For example, diversity in type of trafficking, sex and labor, international and domestic, female and male and various types of sexual exploitation. Individuals should be diverse by ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, region of the country and subject matter expertise (i.e. programming and policy).”
It added: “NSN has a history of advocating for inclusion of survivor voices at the federal level. NSN promoted H.R. 500: Survivors of Human Trafficking Empowerment Act in early 2015 prior to this legislation being added to the (Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act).”
About The Enitan Story
The Enitan Story is a Minneapolis-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with the mission to advocate for victims and empower survivors of human trafficking. The Enitan Story is a partner of the Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking campaign, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initiative to increase the identification of trafficking victims in the United States and to help those victims receive the benefits and services they need to restore their lives. For more information, visit Enitan.org.