Burundi - Nora* leans over the shoulder of a young woman sitting by a sewing machine in a small tailoring shop she runs.  She patiently explains to the young woman - an apprentice seamstress - how to turn a colorful loincloth into a stylish shirt.   

Nora herself used to be a young woman looking for career opportunities.

Nora is training apprentices in her sewing workshop. She had the opportunity to start an income-generating business as part as the reintegration support offered by IOM © IOM Burundi 2022 / Laëtitia Romain

"A few years ago, I was unemployed. So, when I was offered a job in Saudi Arabia, I accepted it. I was supposed to work for one family, but when I arrived, I was told to take care of three more houses. I was doing domestic work, cleaning, washing, cooking... it was very hard and exhausting, I could sleep only 2 hours a day.”  

After a few months, Nora fell seriously ill.  

“I was suffering from intense fatigue because of my excessive work, but I also contracted a sexually transmitted disease because of sexual abuse from my boss and other members of his family. My boss did not get me any medical treatment. When I became too weak, he took me to the recruitment office saying I did not want to work. The office did not help me and I ran away. I was then apprehended by the police and repatriated to Burundi. When I came back, I was really ill and my hands were empty." 

Nora is a survivor of human trafficking. A few weeks after her return, one of the community leaders, who had been trained on identification of protection risks and referral of those in need by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), referred her to a social worker from IOM Burundi’s Migrant Protection and Assistance team.  

"I hadn't opened up to anyone yet," Nora recalls. “The social worker listened to me for a long time, without interrupting. I felt relieved after telling my story.” 

After her return from Saudi Arabia where she was victim of trafficking, Nora was referred to a social worker from IOM and received counselling. © IOM Burundi 2022 / Laëtitia Romain

IOM Burundi is supporting the return and reintegration of survivors of trafficking in their communities. This includes identification and screening of vulnerable cases after referral from community leaders or other actors, psycho-social support and, depending on identified needs, tailored assistance such as vocational trainings, business starting kits, and coaching. The aim is to empower the survivors of trafficking and enable them to provide for their families by taking up income generating activities. 

Nora explains “I was able to receive counselling and had the opportunity to develop a plan to start an income-generating business. I chose sewing and received 6 months of training, then I did a 3-month internship and after, I opened my own workshop. I worked a lot and invested some of my profits in agriculture to generate more income which I used to set up my workshop with sewing machines for embroidery.” 

Nora is among the over 2,000 victims of trafficking who have been assisted since 2017 thanks to financial support from the United States Agency for International Development and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in collaboration with the Government of Burundi. 

Nora is now able to provide for her family and to contribute to the development of opportunities for the youth of her community. © IOM Burundi 2022 / Laëtitia Romain

“A few months later, I was approached by an NGO that visited my workshop and appreciated my work. This organization offered for me to become a coach in the training of young people from my community. I was very pleased with this proposal and immediately agreed.”, Nora continues. “This is how I now work with young apprentices. My little brother, who has just finished school and has not found a job, is learning to sew with me, too.  

I am very happy because not only do I earn a living, but I also contribute to the development of opportunities for young people through sewing apprenticeships. 

When I hear that people are thinking of going abroad to look for work, I advise them to think carefully and inform themselves about working conditions and employer.”  

*The name has been changed to protect the identity of the person. 

Written by : 

Laëtitia Romain, Media & Communication Officer