by Mercy Abang
For ex-beauty queen, Fiona Amuzie, there is so much to give back after the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria reign. Fiona, who hails from Idemili-North LGA in Anambra State, was crowned the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria in 2010 and left the University of Jos to study Psychology at Coventry University UK. For this week’s, “Conversations with Abang Mercy” Fiona opened up as she has never done before about FOTIP- an organization aimed at raising awareness on trafficking in persons and what she’s been doing to render assistance to the growing number of affected victims.
After winning the 2010 Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, what have you been up to, in terms of personal life or projects?
Well, after MBGN, I enrolled into Coventry University, in the UK to study psychology. I knew this was going to be challenging because of my Organization but I took on the challenge.
So I’ve been handling my studies, traveling and working hard at putting FOTIP on a global platform. I’ve also been working at plough-back investments and building my relationship.
You said you’ve been working hard at putting FOTIP on a global platform. What is FOTIP?
Thank you Mercy, FOTIP is basically the abbreviated term for the FIONA Amuzie organization against trafficking in persons and child labour (FOTIP) is a non-profit organization designed to join in combating the scourge of trafficking in persons. At the organization, our objective is to create a forum for victims to share experiences and views with co-victims and be persuaded to join in the combat. As well as raising awareness of trafficking in person (TIP) issues to a very high level globally. And we provide support to victims of TIP to institute a local organization in the regions and in schools that will carry on with the fight against TIP even when funding is finished. Not forgetting that we provide genuine alternatives to the under privileged invariably making them less vulnerable to traffickers as part of the overall objectives of the organization.
What has changed about Fiona? Has being a queen changed who you are or what you do?
Change is one thing that is constant in life. I’ve definitely grown up Mercy. (Smiles) I’m wiser and better. And I’ll always be a queen. My middle name is Ezenwanyi which means Queen in Igbo language. So being crowned MBGN only amplified who I am.
Tell us about your pet project the one you launched during your reign as MBGN Queen, has it been sustainable or it died after your reign?
Mercy the project is same as FOTIP and did not die after my reign. For the records, the Fiona Amuzie Organization against Trafficking in Persons and child labor (FOTIP) is not a pet project. FOTIP was born out of an inspiration from my mum who has been working with victims of human trafficking and child labor. She always came back with traumatic stories of victims. So I seized the right opportunity to create FOTIP as an NGO joining in the battle against human trafficking and child labour.
How has it been running the Fiona Amuzie organization against trafficking in persons and child labor (FOTIP)?
In a country like ours with victims, many with lost hope in genuine help, it is definitely tough. But I hope to set an example and set the standard straight.
Now FOTIP is working on introducing long-term income-generating ventures to facilitate the rehabilitated victims after they leave the shelter.
As much as I would love to reach out to as many well-meaning indigenous citizens, I’ve also started creating synergies with international corporations who are very willing to make an impact in the lives of the victims.
Also the fact that I’m still in school leaves me with the chance to utilize the little time I’ve got to organize workshops and empowerment campaigns.
FOTIP is designed to combat the scourge of trafficking in persons, what are the organizations you have been working with to reach out effectively?
I was made an Ambassador of NAPTIP and I’ve got an essential partnership with the agency. Also I work with WOTCLEF, ONE GOAL ONE HEART, NEWMAX GROUPS ACCRA, FORGOOD FOUNDATION, ACCOLADE MEDIA, SILVERBIRD GROUPS, THE GOVERNMENT OF UYO, WHITE PLAINS BRITISH SCHOOL ABUJA, EKO HOTELS, and MUD STUDIOS (They took care of make-up training of the victims at the shelter).
These are just a few amongst many others and also benevolent individuals, who have supported, sponsored or volunteered heartily to the cause of ending human trafficking and child labor.
You have been raising awareness and rendering assistance to affected victims of trafficking. How has it been? Are there challenges?
There are definitely challenges especially dealing with inhumane acts such as human trafficking and child labour. But it’s been a battle I feel so strongly about so I keep pushing on with solo projects. Getting people aware and talking about the ills of trafficking in persons. Sensitization campaigns and empowerment of the victims at the NAPTIP shelter hasn’t been easy but you see the passion that drives me makes it less challenging as one would have expected. Again, I believe in the power of partnership. And when socially responsible corporations, organizations and individuals are willing to join me, more can be done.
Africa has the second largest number of people in forced labour, your project isn’t a one off campaign but continues. What is your next line of programs?
Well, FOTIP has a vision to fight human trafficking through grassroots sensitization and empowerment. therefore, we have aligned a couple strategies to this effect. On the 23rd of September, we have children representatives from all over the Federal Capital Territory Abuja participating in a sensitization and enlightenment workshop aimed at arming them with knowledge on the ills of human trafficking, emphasizing the rights of the child and educating them on how to avoid human trafficking and child labour.
Also, FOTIP has an ongoing project to facilitate rehabilitated victims with income-generating ventures to reduce the poverty causing factor of human trafficking and child labour. FOTIP is also engaging with international organizations and creating synergies to assist victims. We hope we are able to make as much impact as possible in this scourge of trafficking.
For someone reading you now, how can they reach you or FOTIP if they desire to do so?
FOTIP has got a website www.thefotip.com, And a Twitter account @FotipInfo for more information, we will be glad to hear from Nigerians.
What inspired you to study Psychology? Why not something else?
The body is a slave to the mind. I was interested in expanding my knowledge on human behavior and the correlation between the mind and the body. I want to be able to use that to understand how traffickers victimize people. So I can effectively impact a different orientation to people.
Many thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward.