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United we (net)work an online and offline analysis of Nigerian Women’s Clubs (2019)

In the fifteen-day trial of the Authentic Sisters Club of France (ASCF) – a Nigerian women’s club accused of procuring and trafficking of Nigerian girls from Edo State to France – Nigeria is depicted by the defense speeches as a no-rule and no-state country where women’s clubs come into existence in order to carry out the role of economic operators. They would, then, provide an informal economic system in a country where the formal economic setting could not offer sustainable economic solutions. According to these arguments, this type of Clubs would eventually assist girls and women, with, in the background, the idea that they developed, from their childhood, the will to leave this failed country for a great future in Europe.

These “cultural elements” provided by the defense are of limited impact considering the “exceptional seriousness” of the accusations that, according to the President of the criminal court, Isabelle Prévost-Desprez, “violate the fundamental principles of the French Republic”5. Ten “Madams” of the ASCF are consequently condemned to prison with sentences between three and eleven years for aggravated procuring and human trafficking. Several among them are moreover punished with extradition from the French territory and heavy fines. Five men, linked to the women’s illegal activity, were condemned as well.

Given the results of the Authentic Sister’s trial, it is particularly important to go back to women’s Clubs of the same type as ASCF, in order to shade light on their peculiar acting modes, as well as their context of emergence and development.

This Research is part of the European Project PACKING (Protection of Migrants and Asylum seekers, especially Children and Women coming from Nigeria and victims of trafficking), conducted from 2017 and 2019, both in Nigeria and in France.

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