WESTERN African slavery, lives on, 400 years after transatlantic trade began.

Blessing was only six years old when her mother arranged for her to become an unpaid housemaid    for a family in the Nigerian city of Abuja, on the promise that they would put her through school.

In her hometown in southwest Nigeria, her mother had trouble making enough money to feed her three children.

But when Blessing arrived in Abuja, instead of going to school, the family worked her round-the-clock, beat her with electrical wire if she forgot one of her chores and fed her rotten leftovers.

When her mother later moved to the city to be closer to her daughter, Blessing was unable to be alone with her when she came to visit.

''They would tell me that my mother was coming, that I should not tell her what was happening to me, that I should not even say anything,'' she says of the family.

''If she asks me how am I doing, I should say I am doing fine, they said.''

As the world marks 400 years since the first recorded African slaves arrived in North America, slavery remains a modern-day- scourge.

Over 40 million people are estimated to be trapped in forced labour, forced marriages or other form of sexual exploitation, according to the United States.

Blessing, now 11, is one such victim. She was rescued in 2016 by the Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation [WOTCLEF] which gave consent for her to be interviewed for the story.

AFRICA has the highest prevalence of slavery, with more than seven victims for every 1,000 people, according to a 2017 report by human-rights group Walk Free Foundation and the International Labour Office.

The report defines slavery as ''situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because  of threats, violence, coercion, deception and/or abuse of power.''

Trafficking of sex workers, many of them tricked into thinking that they will get employment doing something else, is one of the most widespread and abusive forms of modern-day slavery.

The experiences of Claudia Osadolor and Progress Omovhie show how poverty increases women's vulnerability to exploitation.

After Osadolor's family in Benin City in southern Nigeria hit hard times, she dropped out of university and headed to Russia after a cousin told her about someone who could help her to get work there, with travel expenses paid.

She left Nigeria with three other girls she did not know in June 2012. when she got to Russia a ''madam'' came to pick her up. [Agencies].


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