Since 2016 in Veneto and in particular in Verona there has been a huge increase in Nigerian victims of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. As a Social Service of the Municipality of Verona, within the actions of the NAVe Network Anti-trafficking Project for Veneto, the need emerged to be more effective in the interventions of the various actors involved in the project to help girls for many difficulties in creating interpersonal relationships of trust, with consequent bankruptcy outcomes of the assistance pathways, due both to limitations of the intervention devices and to the increasingly complex problems detected (poor motivation, adolescent behaviors, outcomes from traumas, abortions, self-injurious acts, attempted suicides, hospitalizations, removals, risky and deviant behavior, unconscious use of social networks, etc.). There was a need to question and change approaches and methods of intervention, in order to be more effective in individual inclusion paths, change perspective and put the real protagonists of inclusion paths at the center.
It was therefore decided to do group work between minors and new-age minors in charge of the Social Service. Focusing on unconditional acceptance and self-determination of people, a group empowerment process was started to accompany the young Nigerian victims of trafficking followed in an anti-oppressive pedagogical path of liberation.
The activities are conducted and facilitated by three social workers, a Nigerian cultural linguistic mediator and a Nigerian girl with peer educator function. Since September 2018, meetings lasting 4-5 hours have been organized and attendance every six weeks.
As a choice for conducting the activities, it was decided not to give excessive structure to the meetings and to use animation techniques to facilitate an informal atmosphere that facilitated relationships and free expression. The main objective is not to transmit content, but to stimulate a process of maturation and self-awareness. The message made clear from the outset was very clear: "as a public assistance system we are very much in difficulty: we need you to make us understand how to help you better". The girls thus understood the role of active participation required; at the same time, the challenge for the Social Service and reception systems was to get more involved, to restore confidence to the girls and recognize their skills and abilities in self-determination.
From them initially a propensity to focus on issues related to the present and the future emerged (community life, stabilization in the Italian territory, work, etc.) and a tendency to avoid more painful issues (the past, the journey and the trafficking experience, the relationship with Nigeria, but also in some way the recognition / awareness of a victim status that needs protection).
Various external subjects from the network of services were involved in the meetings, including institutional ones (Police Headquarters, specialist social and health services, etc.), addressing some issues chosen by the girls (community rules, documents, health, emotions, relationships interpersonal, etc.).
After a year and a half, some initial outcome indicators are identified: continuity of presence and active participation in the meetings, group climate, interactions between the girls inside and outside the group, creation of closeness and trust towards the institutions, keeping the inclusion paths, greater attention, awareness and willingness to get more involved, as well as an expansion and active involvement by public health and social services.
Keywords: Victims of human trafficking; group empowerment; anti-oppressive social work.