Human trafficking: Interview with survivor advocate Evelyn Chumbow

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities

Evelyn Chumbow

WASHINGTON, DC, June 23, 2013 ― Evelyn Chumbow is a powerhouse as she advocates on behalf of victims of labor trafficking and servitude across the world.  “I don’t want anyone else to become a victim of what I went through, especially … at age nine,” stated Evelyn, “I am a voice of modern day slavery, and I will not stop until I help end this horrible crime … even if I am behind closed doors, my voice will always be involved.”

Holly Smith: Evelyn, what would you say is your personal mission statement?

Evelyn Chumbow: I am very passionate about end[ing] modern day slavery around the world and, most important; I want the world to recognize that modern day slavery is also a big problem in Africa…I want the world…to know  that we are all survivors of many things in…life but surviving slavery is very powerful.  Let’s teach the world that the [term] human trafficking [is not only ‘sex trafficking’] but slavery in general.  Most people forget to realize that [forced] sex is labor.

HS: How did you get involved with anti-human trafficking advocacy/speaking?

EC: I am [a survivor] of child labor trafficking.

When I reached the U.S., I was forced to cook, clean, and take care of the children of my recruiter, Theresa Mubang. I was never paid for my work, and any hope that I might escape my miserable life was undermined by the constant beatings I received from Mubang. For seven years of my young teenage life, I lived in constant fear and worked day and night. I never rode the school bus. I never went to the prom. I never got to hang out with friends after school. I never joined a dance team.

I was a modern day slave, not in some far-flung country, but right here in the U.S. I have not seen my parents for eighteen years due to this situation. My trafficker was sentenced to 17 years in prison for what she did to me.

After all those years of captivity, I finally escaped. I enrolled in GED courses, then [attended] community college, [and am now enrolled in the] University of Maryland University College (UMUC). As a student at UMUC, I am focusing on Humanitarian Work and Homeland Security. Where I come from, lack of knowledge about human trafficking [and human] rights is an everyday reality. I am the first woman from my country of Cameroon in West Africa to have been fortunate [enough to pursue an education]. I am a full-time undergraduate student at UMUC; I understand that I am in a unique position to do something about the [reality of] human trafficking in West Africa, in my hometown, and the rest of the world.

HS: Are you a member of any human trafficking-related survivor networks that you would like to mention?

EC: I am part of a speakers’ bureau website called Survivors of Slavery and a group called the National Survivor Network (NSN). [S]ome of the NSN members have become like my family because they understand me.

HS: Did any organization or advocate play a significant role in your healing / empowerment process?

EC: The person that has really played a major role is Melanie Orhant, and God.

HS: Are you working on any current projects?

EC: I would like to work for an organization, [but paid positions are hard to find.]  I am working really hard to see if I could open a nonprofit in Cameroon, but it isn’t easy.

HS: What message about human trafficking do you most want to communicate to the public?

EC: I want the public to understand that human trafficking happens in many forms. The focus should not always be on sex trafficking and thinking that human trafficking only involves forced sex. Also, I want the public to understand that victims of human trafficking are from all over the world.

HS: What message would you like to pass to other survivor advocates and speakers?

EC: The message I would like to [pass on] to other survivors is [this:]

Don’t let the media separate us.  [This] is not a competition but instead a fight to save other lives. We must be truthful with our stories because it can save many lives around the world.

HS: How can people reach you for questions or more information?


Website: Survivors of Slavery

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