The UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking and Nobel Peace Prize co-winner, Nadia Murad, talks to us about her plans for the year ahead. In 2014, ISIS attacked Nadia’s homeland in Sinjar to ethnically cleanse Iraq of all Yazidis. The then 21-year-old was kidnapped by Islamic State fighters along with thousands of other Yazidi women and girls. Now, as President of Nadia's Initiative she advocates globally for survivors of sexual violence and for the rebuilding of communities in crisis.

Why did you decide to launch Nadia’s Initiative? 

I decided to launch Nadia’s Initiative in 2018 so that my work advocating for Yazidis and survivors of sexual violence could continue. I also wanted to make sure that the Yazidi community living in Sinjar would receive tangible support. The majority of humanitarian aid was being directed at camps for internally displaced people (IDPs), but I knew this was not a sustainable solution. So, I founded Nadia’s Initiative with the goal of facilitating community-led, sustainable development that will empower the Yazidi community in Sinjar to rebuild their lives and live with dignity.

What is the main goal of the initiative with regards to human trafficking?

Nadia’s Initiative addresses human trafficking through the lens of justice. This means providing tangible support that will improve the daily lives of survivors of ISIS captivity. Survivors can only begin to heal when their basic needs are met. Justice also means holding perpetrators of sexual slavery and human trafficking accountable. Survivors have been neglected and marginalized by society for too long – they want to see a formal acknowledgment of the harm done to them and know that their abusers will not walk free. Accountability is an essential tool for prevention. It is vital to show past and potential perpetrators that there will be consequences for these crimes.

What have been the main achievements since the initiative was founded in 2018?

Nadia’s Initiative has continued its advocacy both locally and internationally on behalf of the Yazidi community and survivors of sexual violence. Since 2018, Nadia’s Initiative has launched over 50 projects related to healthcare, education, livelihoods, women’s empowerment, WASH, security, public infrastructure, and cultural preservation. We have created COVID emergency response programmes, empowered women with agricultural and entrepreneurial support, reopened health centres, and put thousands of children back in school. I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished over the past two years, but I know our work is far from over.

Which type of activities are you planning for the year ahead? 

I am most excited about the implementation of our flagship project: the construction of an entirely new hospital in Sinjar. This project has been in the works since I founded Nadia’s Initiative, and we are now launching it with our partners in the French Government and the NGO Chaîne de l’Espoir. We want to emphasize that Yazidis are worth investing in and that they deserve a brighter, safer, and more prosperous future. Our hope is that our work will encourage other organizations to invest in the Yazidi community to help them recover.

We are also continuing our work to rebuild and reopen schools and health centres, restore clean water infrastructure, and empower survivors and women in general to independently improve their livelihoods.

In your own words, how do you describe your role as the UN’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking? 

As a Goodwill Ambassador, I focus on bringing human trafficking to the attention of world leaders and ensure that it stays there. Through our work at Nadia’s Initiative, I am also leading by example with a survivor-centric approach that can be replicated on a global scale. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for survivors to have a seat at the table. From my own experience, I am able to provide a survivor perspective. It is an immense responsibility and not one that I take lightly.

How do you envision your role as UNODC Goodwill Ambassador throughout 2021?

As we continue to face the impact of COVID-19 throughout 2021, human trafficking needs to be at the forefront of our collective consciousness. The pandemic has severely exacerbated vulnerabilities and made it easier for traffickers to take advantage of marginalized people. I plan to continue advocating and encouraging world leaders to prioritize the issue of human trafficking in their COVID response plans.

What are your hopes for the future development of this role?

In the future, I hope to be able to amplify the voices of more survivors from around the world. It is not my role to be their voice. Every survivor has a voice, but I have been granted this platform and I want to share it with other survivors who can help lead the way forward towards more empowering and effective solutions to human trafficking.