Prudence Galega is a powerful force for change in Cameroon. As a former judge and president of Nkumu Fed Fed, a network of women’s organizations across Cameroon committed to improving the status of vulnerable communities, Prudence is on the frontlines of human trafficking in her country.
Official recognition of the extent of trafficking and forced labor in Cameroon has long been complicated by cultural norms that value a collective approach to childrearing. Family, neighbors and friends all play roles in children’s growth and well-being, and it is this trust and openness that traffickers exploit. They pose as caretakers offering children better lives, and then force them to work in domestic servitude, mining, agriculture, and prostitution.
“Nobody understands where it is coming from,” says Prudence. Families are deceived and the problem goes unnoticed.
She knew what she was up against as project director for the U.S. State Department-sponsored Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Project for Cameroon, the Child Trafficking Reduction Support Project, and for the Support Program for the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Victims of Child Trafficking in the North West Province of Cameroon.
“Even as a judge,” explains Prudence, “it was pretty difficult to get the judicial system to respond to this phenomenon. This is the worst crime you can think of in humanity.”
Since 2010, Cameroon’s political establishment has strengthened its commitment to eradicating human trafficking. “Collaboration and partnership is critical when you want to create shifts,” says Prudence. “You need to work as partners and you need to recognize the strengths of each other.”
Nkumu Fed Fed, which means “gathering of sisters,” is an association of women’s empowerment organizations with eight branches in Cameroon, three in the U.S. and one in the UK. The network pools resources and leadership to advocate against trafficking and to hold perpetrators accountable. It also runs health, education and microfinance programs to serve vulnerable populations.