London victim of modern slavery reveals harrowing past as her artwork goes on display in new exhibition celebrating freedom

A victim of modern slavery in London has revealed how producing her own artwork with the help of a charity has helped her turn her life around.

The woman, known as Rashida, arrived in the UK from the Gambiain her early 30s and was taken to different houses, forced to sleep with different men and threatened with violence if she refused.

With the help of charity Hestia, she has been able to get the help she needs and is now looking to support others who have suffered similar experiences.

Her work is included in an exhibition of art produced entirely by victims of modern slavery to celebrate their freedom, as the UK marks anti-slavery day.

The exhibition, Art is Freedom, curated by charity Hestia, is open to the public and gives Londoners an insight into how victims were treated when arriving to the capital and how their lives have changed.

Rashida spoke to the Standard about her own harrowing ordeal and how she wants to appeal to other people to seek support and help.

Rashida's work on display at the exhibition

The 45-year-old said she did not have a happy childhood and experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) when she was just eight years old.

She said: “There was no anaesthetic and a single blade.  My father forced me to sleep with men so he would continue to pay for my schooling.

“When I was 11, my mum had a breakdown and was taken away. I never saw her again and I miss her so much. I don’t know if she is alive.

“My uncle told me he would pay for my education and help me when I was in the UK. When I arrived, my VISA and passport were taken away from me.  I was in my early thirties. He lied to me. He said I must work for him to pay back the travel. 

“After I arrived at Gatwick, I was taken to a house in east London. I don’t know exactly where it was, it was a normal street with lots of houses.

Those who took part in the exhibition were given a camera and encouraged to take pictures of London

“They were very nice houses. At night I was often taken to different houses to sleep with different men, I didn’t know anything about them.

“I was not allowed to ask any questions. They could have been anyone. I was forced to drink alcohol.

“They would twist my arm and beat me if I didn’t do what they said and if I tried to escape they said they would kill me. They said that the police would beat me up or kill me if I tried to get help.”

Rashida said she was locked in a small room all day and did not see anyone during this period, using a small mattress to sleep on and a pan in the corner of a room to relieve herself with.

She added her life has changed “so much” since she was able to get help from the Salvation Army and Hestia, and is now looking to help other people who have been through similar experiences.

Artists featured in the exhibition came from all over the world

One of her pieces, a hat, featured in the exhibition, and creating it has helped to give her a voice, she said.

Rashida said: “I thought my voice would never be heard again, I’ve never had a voice myself.”

The experience of creating the art for a wide audience, Rashida added, was emotional.

Work in the exhibition came entirely from victims of modern day slavery

“I was very emotional for the first time [when we met to create work],” she said, “And then I had something that made me feel ok. It was very helpful to get the opportunity to show what I can do.”

The thought of people seeing her work, she added, was “so good” because it allowed other possible victims of modern slavery to see there is support and help available.

She said: “It’s very important for people to know there is help out there, I never knew there was any help there.

“I would tell [other victims of modern slavery] them they need to speak out. I never opened up. You will come across someone that will help you.”

Since being helped by the charity, Rashida said she has a support worker who has changed her life and has helped her do every day, once daunting, tasks like organising a doctor’s appointment or going to the hospital.

Rashida said: “I want to use my voice to help people who have experienced what I had been through.

whatsapp-image-2018-10-17-at-10.00.13-2.jpeg

The exhibition is on all week

“I want to let people know there is support out there like Ella from Hestia. People should not be scared to come forward.

“The police are here to protect you. You should not be scared of them. I volunteer at a centre for women who have been abused sexually and I tell them it does get better, it takes time. I don’t want them to feel alone.”

Rashida’s name has been changed to protect her identity

Art is Freedom is taking place at Anise Gallery, SE1 2PU, until Tuesday October 23.

Hestia’s modern slavery response team started in 2011 and since then Hestia has supported over 2,500 victims of modern slavery and their dependents. Currently, Hestia provides 5 safe houses in London and Kent, as well as a pan-London outreach service working in every London borough. In 2018, Hestia also launched the Phoenix Project in partnership with the British Red Cross to provide volunteer-led, long-term support to victims of modern slavery. 

standard.co.uk
East London Gambia
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
5 views in july
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Society
An EE customer has said she was stalked by an ex-partner who worked at the firm, after he accessed her personal data without permission. Francesca Bonafede's number was switched to a new handset and her address and bank details were accessed. She said the company failed to take the data breach seriously and she had to involve police. EE "sincerely apologised" to Ms Bonafede, and said the employee no longer worked for the company. 'They didn't seem concerne...
Society
West Ham say they have handed over all of their evidence to the police after completing a "thorough and immediate" investigation into racist abuse shouted at Liverpool's Mohamed Salah. The incident happened during Monday's 1-1 draw at London Stadium. Egypt striker Salah, 26, was filmed on a mobile phone from a section of home supporters as he was taking a corner. "The club is unequivocal in its stance - such abuse will not be tolerated," West Ham said in a...
Society
A body seen in the wreckage of the plane carrying Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson has been recovered, investigators said. Remotely operated Vehicles (ROVs) were used in ‘challenging conditions’ to pull the body out of the water ‘in as dignified a way as possible’ the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said on Wednesday night. The body is being taken to Portland to be passed over to the Dorset coroner for examination, t...
Society
The US president, who has repeatedly criticised the military alliance, would meet with heads of state in London, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg announced on Wednesday. It would be Mr Trump's second visit to Britain since his election, having jetted in amid swathes of protest last July. I am pleased to announce that allies have agreed that the next meeting of Nato heads of state and government will take place in London in December 2019. The meeting...
Society
Rolf Harris was jailed for five years and nine months in 2014 but released on licence in May 2017 Credit: PA Officials are investigating a report that disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris walked onto the grounds of a primary school and waved at pupils. The convicted sex offender went onto the premises of Oldfield Primary School near his home in Bray, Maidenhead, to talk to a sculptor working in the grounds, the Daily Mirror reported. Harris, who was jailed fo...
Crime
Two men have been arrested on suspicion of murder after a teenager was stabbed to death. Police and London Ambulance Service were called to Wolsey Court, off Westbridge Road in Battersea, at 7.52pm on Tuesday following reports of a stabbing. A 19-year-old man was found with stab injuries and died at the scene at 8.36pm despite paramedics battling to save his life. The stabbing took place less than half a mile from Prince George's primary school, Thomas's B...
Society
The girl, who has been named Roman by nurses, was found at around 10pm on Thursday in the park in Roman Road in East Ham.  Police said Roman was wrapped in a white towel and placed in the shopping bag on the ground next to a bench in the small children's play park.  The baby was rushed to hospital where she was in a stable condition on Friday morning, the Metropolitan Police said.  Roman was discovered by grandmother-of-one Rima Zvaliauskiene, 50, just 100...
Society
The operation to recover the doomed plane carrying Emiliano Sala off Guernsey could be hampered by days of poor weather as the man brought in by the footballer's family to find him said he could be in the wreckage. The English Channel is being battered by torrential ran, 40mph winds and 10ft waves with the poor conditions set to continue - and worsen - until the end of the week, MailOnline can reveal today. The families of the £15million striker and his pi...
Society
Train passengers are being warned of major disruption after overhead electric wires were damaged near one of London’s busiest stations. Network Rail said services travelling to and from Liverpool Street could be cancelled or revised until 8am on Thursday. Wires between Liverpool Street and Bethnal Green, east London, were damaged, with the outage impacting Greater Anglia, London Overground, Stansted Express and Transport for London Rail services. Passenger...