When Marcela was just 21, she was tricked by human traffickers and sexually exploited for 18 months. “I was offered a job outside of the country. I was promised I would be famous and make a lot of money as a professional dancer,” she explains. At that time in her life, her daughter was sick and she had a lot of bills to pay for medical treatment.
After escaping her ordeal and rebuilding her life, she created the Marcela Loaiza Foundation to raise awareness about human trafficking through education in Colombia and the United States. The Foundation helps victims to reintegrate into society and provides services to overcome personal and psychological problems and find employment.
“Often, the reason for victims to not seek support is lack of resources. Offering things like bus passes and babysitting is crucial in maintaining a good attendance at our workshops,” says Marcela. “Access to the job market is essential,” she adds. “When survivors of trafficking find stable, sustainable jobs, their lives become better, and they are able to work on their internal traumas.”
Marcela speaks about her experiences at high schools and universities and has supported the development of several curricula to help integrate the topic of human trafficking and the needs of victims into courses. “Awareness raising through education is about making sure that people understand the existence and dangers of this crime, and the different problems that lead to human trafficking,” she explains.
Marcela says that as a survivor she knows “how long and arduous the healing process is”.
“It took me a long time to just believe and trust in myself again, and if I can provide any help to victims to help smooth out this process I will.” Marcela was able to go from being a victim of human trafficking to a writer, activist, and survivor. “Being a motivation to all the victims out there is incredibly important to me.”
Survivors can provide valuable insights into the crime of human trafficking and must be engaged in anti-trafficking efforts, she believes. “We have lived through it. We are the best people to help everyone understand how it really is. The reality is terrible.” Such insights are “crucial for overall awareness and for better strategies and campaigns to combat this crime” she concludes.