Women & Girls Empowerment

Onilda, Chile

Onilda, 54 years old, is a woman with a contagious enthusiasm and joy for life. Two years ago, she migrated from her home in the Dominican Republic to embark on a long and turbulent journey to Chile. She paid 750 USD, her entire life savings, to be transported by people smugglers – ‘coyotes’ – who, during the journey, treated her like a piece of ‘merchandise.’ She realized it was a scam by the time she reached Brazil. When they finally arrived in Bolivia, the ‘coyotes’ put her on a bus to the border. They abandoned her and took all her money and belongings with them. Disorientated, and without the protection of her traffickers, Onilda somehow managed to enter northern Chile through an unauthorized crossing and reach the city of Iquique.

Here, she found herself destitute and on the street, where she increasingly became sick, tired, hungry and distressed. Her only support and friends were those in similar situations. A friend brought her to the Madre Josefa Foundation where she was able to receive spiritual and psychological support. She was also able to register at the Health Center to access health care. She attended small-business entrepreneurship workshops and, crucially, received support to apply for a special visa for women who were victims of human trafficking.

Onilda is a fighter who has shown her boundless determination to get ahead. Today, she works independently and earns enough money to rent a room and support herself. She is hopeful that her legal status in Chile will soon become regularized and is optimistic for a brighter future ahead.

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