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Grizelda – South Africa

Grizelda is a human trafficking and prostitution survivor who uses her experiences to inform and educate around the world. She is a women’s rights activist, international speaker, and best-selling author of EXIT the story of her life in trafficking.

What inspires you to do the work you do?

I think my inspiration comes from being a survivor of trafficking. The hard work I had to put into exiting trafficking on my own, motivated me to ensure other women wouldn’t have to face what I did. When I started leaving trafficking I had also given birth to my son so I knew I had to fight for his rights and get back into society, for him, so that he could have a different life.

When we look at slavery and trafficking we need to remember that it is linked to the government system of the apartheid. I was just another kid who fell through the gaps in the system. Coming from the townships and being black and poor, then being trafficked, it is a slavery problem. I’m motivated to change that for future generations.

What was the turning point which made you become an activist?

My turning point was going to the clinic to get tested for HIV the first time. I didn’t have documents which meant it was a struggle to get state assistance. I knew then that I wanted to help other women, facing what I did, but I didn’t know where to start.

Soon after I saw an NGO that was looking for volunteers to act in a movie about human trafficking I just knew I had to be part of it. When you have HIV, people in the community see it as a curse or taboo and your family are outcasts so it is hard to get help. But through working on this film I learned I could use my story to make a difference.

The film got a screening which lots of government officials came to and I was asked to speak. So many of the governors I saw there were men who had been clients. So I said to them “I feel so disgraced being at this gala dinner when so many of you are complicit in trafficking.” That was my first platform as an activist. That opened so many amazing doors to other NGOs such as Embrace Dignity who taught me to read and write, from there I’ve just taken every opportunity to speak on a platform.

What is your hope for the future?

My hope is next year is that I will pass my grade 12 and get the scholarship so I can take my son out of the bad community we’re still living in. As a survivor, I haven’t tasted the opportunity to get an education.

Even now in 2018, a woman dies every day in my township, my dream is that my community can become safe enough for my children to visit my mother in this township safely.

What is one thing others can do to make change?

Get involved and get informed, go to events you think you never would, learn anything you can learn. People should not just go to campaigns for things relating to their situation, we need to start collaborating, we need to unite. When men want to change a law they go to war. We women need to come together like we are going to war to change the law.