There are an estimated 55,000 people living in modern slavery in Argentina (GSI 2018). Argentine women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, as are women and children from other Latin American countries, particularly Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Brazil. To a more limited extent, Argentine men, women, and children are subjected to sex and labour trafficking in other countries, mostly in Europe. Men, women, and children from Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and other countries are subjected to forced labour in a variety of sectors, including sweatshops, agriculture, street vending, charcoal and brick production, domestic work, and small businesses.Jilda was eleven years old when she was trafficked from Bolivia to Argentina.
A lady came to offer things, she asked my mum, ‘Don’t you want this or that?’ And my mum told her about me, that she was looking for a job for her daughter. ‘We’ll take her to Argentina,’ she told her. My mum didn’t understand, she thought Argentina was close. I said, ‘But I’m a minor’ and she said, ‘That doesn’t matter, I can get you across.’
They got me across [the border], they gave me a document. ‘Follow our rules or something will happen to your mum.’ They threatened me.
The name [on the documentation] was right, but the age was faked. I crossed in the guise of a 21 year old. Then everything started to change. I was forced to get up at 4am to go to work. I didn’t eat properly. Then I didn’t sleep. I was kept working until 2 or 3 am.
I was sewing in a sweatshop for six years. I couldn’t leave. I was beaten. I was tied up like a dog, chained. They fed me with animal food. And when it was cold they threw buckets of icy water on me. I was freezing.
They had all gone out to the central market and they left their keys behind. So I was in the bathroom and when I came out there was nobody. Then I grabbed the key, opened the door and I escaped.
[After she escaped, Jilda met her partner and had a baby]
He is the main reason I’m stronger now. My fears are not the same as before. Little by little I’m forgetting everything.
Narrative provided by Al Jazeera