Ola's story

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Ola is now in her 30s and in the second year of a Business Degree at a university in Manchester. She is full of enthusiasm for her studies, and is even planning to do a Masters Degree in IT.

Ola always loved learning, but as a child in Nigeria, instead of an education, at the age of nine she was promised in marriage to a friend of her father's - even being forced to perform a ‘blood oath,’ as a way of securing the deal.

As well as the prospect of marriage to an older man looming over her, Ola suffered terrible violence at the hands of her father, who blinded her in one eye.

Fearing for her life and her future, Ola left Nigeria as a teenager before the marriage could take place, and fled to England.

Alone and scared, she was befriended by Nigerian men already living in the UK who offered to help her find work using a fake ID, and a bank account which they had control over.

Ola spent the next fifteen years working in various shops around the UK, but having all her wages taken by the men. Despite working full time, she would only be given small amounts of cash by the men - just enough to cover her bus fare to work, and the food she needed to survive.

When she complained, they threatened to have her arrested and deported, and even threatened to turn her over to her father and the man she would have been forced to marry.

“It got to the point where I’d had enough,” said Ola. “I knew I didn’t want to carry on being exploited and threatened. I was depressed. I tried to take my own life. It didn’t work, but I still have the scars to remind me. Anyone I seemed to ask for help just tried to exploit me, so in the end I went to the police. Even if they arrested me, I just wanted help getting away from these people.”

Ola told the police her story and was referred into the NRM, the government funded support system for survivors of modern slavery, where she was supported by Causeway’s modern slavery outreach team.

Her decades of exploitation and fear have left Ola struggling with anxiety, agoraphobia, and disordered eating. However, she is determined to gain as much education as she can so that she can live in freedom and independence, something that was denied to her throughout her life.