Bukola Oriola, a longtime advocate for victims of trafficking and domestic abuse in Minnesota, is looking forward to serving on the newly formed U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.
“It’s unbelievable that I could get such a platform,” she said. “I see it as the highest platform I could have to really lend my voice to help victims and survivors of human trafficking.”
Oriola was among 11 council members that President Obama picked last month from states across the country to identify issues and make recommendations to the federal government on policies addressing human trafficking in the United States.
“I am honored that these talented individuals have decided to serve our country,” President Obama said in a statement. “They bring their years of experience to this administration, and I look forward to working with them.”
Oriola, the only council member from Minnesota, described the appointment as a victory for her and for human trafficking victims and survivors. She said the new status would enable her to expand the advocacy she’s been involved in over the past seven years.
Last week, Oriola was invited to the White House to meet with the president and her fellow council members to discuss the role the council will play in the fight against human trafficking.
An immigrant from Nigeria, Oriola knows the ordeal of trafficking and domestic abuse all too well. Ten years ago, when she was new to the country, she said her then-husband abused and starved her as he took her earnings from a hair-braiding job she established inside her house.
After two years of abuse, Oriola — who was an undocumented immigrant at the time — turned to her nurse for help. The move eventually led her to escape the man who held her captive, as she later wrote about the experience.
Since 2009, the former journalist has become an advocate for victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse, especially immigrant communities in Minnesota. Last summer, she travelled to her country to raise awareness about the issues.
She’s written a book, “Imprisoned: The Travails of a Trafficked Victim,” about her experience to inform people about the hidden danger that some undocumented immigrants in the country face.
“I’m representing the immigrant community on the council,” she said of her two-term seat. “I’m glad the government has chosen actual survivors of human and labor trafficking, people who were abused by those they thought were helping them.”