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Hot-topic human trafficking hits home at UB

Tambo, students bring sexual exploitation awareness to UB

Senior News Editor

Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013

Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 18:01


Kyle Tymon /// The Spectrum

UB alum Rugare Tambo spoke Friday night on raising awareness about sexual abuse and exploitation. Tambo's abusive past led her to dedicate her life to social justice.

UB alum Rugare Tambo was molested at knifepoint at the age of 12 in her native Zimbabwe.

At 14, she was cornered and raped by her boyfriend.

When she was 16, Tambo left Zimbabwe to study in Argentina on a student-exchange program. One of her host fathers molested her.

UB student Bahati Thambikeni grew up in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. One of her most vivid memories of Africa is visiting Rwanda, shortly after the genocide, as a young girl. She recalls walking into a school filled with skeletons. She’ll never forget one skeleton – it was a mother clutching onto her child.

Thambikeni could still see the rosary around the mother’s neck; she felt the woman’s despair in that moment.

Both girls were affected by tragedies in Africa. Their pain and passion brought them together on Friday night at the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) event UNBOUND, where members promoted standing up against human trafficking, the world’s fastest growing crime, and sexual exploitation.

Thambikeni, a junior biology major, is the co-president of IVCF at UB and helped organize UNBOUND.

Tambo came to the event as a representative of iOppose (International Organization to Promote Prevention of Sexual Exploitation, Inc.) – a 3-year-old organization started by UB alumna Carol Conklin, who was also at the event. The two spoke about how to prevent people from becoming sexual predators or victims.

Tambo and Conklin urged the crowd of approximately 70 students and non-students to take what they learned from the evening and “be the change they want to see in the world.”

But it is Tambo’s past that led her to the stage.

The 24-year-old graduated from UB in 2012 with a degree in communication and a concentration in public relations. She’s a joyful and optimistic young woman with a warmhearted smile. But her deep brown eyes tell a story of a darker past. 

Her anger of the past came back when she witnessed a male in her co-ed fraternity escape conviction after raping a female member.

Her friend’s sexual abuse instantly turned into secrecy. It reminded Tambo of when she was molested at age 12. She was on a vacation boat with her family, and one of the boat cooks followed her downstairs. He cornered her with a knife and molested her.

She told her mother what happened, and for a reason Tambo is not sure of, her mother told her not to tell her dad. Sexual abuse and secrecy became analogous to Tambo.

“Seeing that injustice in a relationship right next to me, right here at UB, really outraged me,” Tambo said.

Tambo was hungry for justice. When she joined IVCF in 2011, she began to realize she could take her passion for social justice and turn it into action. She decided to make the prevention and awareness of sexual abuse her career.

Shortly after Tambo graduated, Conklin hired her as the public relations spokesperson for iOppose.

UNBOUND was the second event Tambo spoke at as an iOppose representative.

Tambo finds breaking the barrier of closed communication about sexual abuse therapeutic. Though she didn’t get into detail in Friday night’s presentation about her own experiences, she mentioned in passing she was a victim of sexual abuse and rape.

She believes by consistently bringing it up, going around and talking about the estimated 39 million survivors of sexual abuse in the world, she can spark action.

“It’s a release, I think, to do it positively and give back to a community of people who couldn’t do it without you,” Tambo said. “Because, I think about if somebody had been there to tell me what the warning signs were, I wouldn’t have been molested at knifepoint. If somebody had been there to tell me that I was beautiful or support me, and if I had known about how important it is to have community and not keep secrets, I think it would have helped me not end up getting raped.”

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