Grizelda Grootboom talks about her experiences as a survivor of human trafficking at the Iziko Slave Lodge in Adderley Street, Cape Town last month.Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)
Author Grizelda Grootboom grew up on the street and was sold into sexual slavery at the age of 18.

Following the publication of her book, Exit, which is being sold worldwide, the 37-year-old has decided to complete her schooling, with the aim of becoming a lawyer.

An activist for women’s rights, Grootboom is the founder of the Survivor Exit Foundation and is working on a number of initiatives to empower women, including the creation of forums to lobby the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to ensure that women who are the victims of crime receive justice.

She is also writing a second book. “I got the opportunity to write my book and it was published in 2016. It has been doing well around the world. I received a scholarship from the UN Women to study in Canada,” she said.

In Exit, Grootboom shares intimate details of her struggles while growing up on Cape Town’s streets, and tells of being raped at a young age, her use of drugs and being sold into sexual slavery.

She said although she had left those experiences behind and was rebuilding her life, she still required therapy.

But she was “in a good place in life now, thanks to the blessings of God”.

Grootboom is completing Grade 11 and, after finishing matric, plans to become a lawyer so she can can help put laws and structures in place to protect women. “I am in a process of saying this is where I want to be.... I want to be a lawyer, a judge and hopefully a president. I really want to take that path so badly.”

She said she made the decision to escape from sexual slavery on her own. “There was nobody to help me, there was no FBI that walked into the brothel and saved me. There was no permanent accommodation and sustainable programme in my life.”

Grootboom said if she had grown up under different circumstances she would have taken a different path. “I think I would have been a singer or have done theatre. I am very creative.”

Turning back to her youth, she said her father, who raised her, had died when she was young.

He had been important to her. She said due to apartheid legislation, she and her father were forced out of their home and had to endure a life on the streets. Although life was tough, her father had made her feel happy. “We would sit on the Grand Parade, have our fish and chips and he would make me forget that we were street people.”

In spite of her pain and suffering at the hands of men, Grootboom said her father had shown her there was often a good side to men.

She was left traumatised at the age of 9 after being gang raped while she was living with her mother in a township. She was made to believe she was raped because she had done wrong. Today, she said she found strength from the many women who looked up to her. “I need to prove to them that I can make it.”

More than being a survivor of human trafficking, she was a mother to her daughter.

She said she had a good sense of humour and loved reading and writing. “I love being funny, I am a friendly person and I love sharing - and that’s Grizelda Grootboom.”