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Celebration and Recognition – Dr Nusha Yonkova

by Regina Jardin on the 15/04/2021

Regina Jardin is originally from the Philippines; She love food and she believes that the food we eat is intricately intertwined with our culture. She enjoys learning, exploring cultures and computer games which she believes is the reason she is open to diversity.

Dr Nusha Yonkova, originally from Bulgaria, moved to Ireland with her family in the 1990s. She faced the challenge of not being eligible to work in Ireland, as an accompanying spouse of a highly-skilled worker. Even though she was an educated third-country national, she was not given an automatic right to work in Ireland until she got her work permit. Her challenges did not end there she said “It is extremely difficult to convince an employer to go through the elaborate lengthy and expensive procedure of obtaining a work permit for a specific worker. One has to convince the employer that overcoming the prohibitive procedural hurdles is worth it. Foreign name, foreign education, non-native level of language, lack of bank account (only issued after the work permit is granted) are all very real challenges on the road to work in Ireland’’ (Dr Yonkova, 2021).(i) This contributed to her interest in migration policies as well as in wider human rights issues. she has been working on human trafficking for the last 12 years, she addressed and researched the root causes of trafficking for sham marriages which comes down to the exploitation of very vulnerable women, she advocated and closely worked with the victim of human trafficking and prostitution like women trafficked from EU countries, including Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia or from outside Europe, mostly Africa and Latin America, for many years as part of the team of Immigrant Council of Ireland. she is the anti-trafficking expert that worked closely for the recovery of the victims, her professional role in this area coincided with the development of an anti-trafficking response by the Irish State.(ii) In 2019, IrishTimes published an article about women and children in direct provision centres are being offered money for sex, Dr Nusha Yonkova stated there that “On at least two occasions women we worked with disappeared,” says Yonkova. “They were probably recruited and are still at risk of being trafficked by criminal groups.” (Dr Yonkova, 2019)(iii), Dr Yonkova recognised the desperate need of change in our society, she is dedicating her career to support those people who are victim of Human trafficking and sex trade for money. (iv)

She became a Doctor of Philosophy at University College Dublin in 2019 with her work ‘A Study of Gender Specific Approaches to Assistance of Trafficked, Sexually Exploited Women in Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia and the UK’ this made her realised that her inquisitiveness about feminism and women advancement has dominated her interest even back then. (v)

What motivated her to work with migrant women and victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse is that she wanted to protect them, she wanted to empower and make a change for these women who are trapped in a painful system that women are most likely to be subjected to abuse and inequalities in our society just for them to be able to protect their kids, families or loved ones. Dr Nusha Yonkova recognised the need of empowering these women and enabling them to recover from the challenges they faced before. The establishment of gender-specific services for the victim of human trafficking and abuse in direct provision centres for the full recovery of these women and the best practice approach developed by the Immigrant Council of Ireland is one of the greatest achievement in tackling these social issues. (vi) Dr Yonkova stated that “Recognising that the combination of factors such as gender, type of exploitation and type of harm experienced by women victims of sex trafficking sets them apart from the rest of trafficked victims. The system of support of such women has to be aligned to our responses to gender-based violence and sexual violence, in which Ireland has long-standing traditions and service infrastructure. It has to take into account the extremely high social and health-wise cost involved in their recovery.’’ (Dr Yonkova, 2021). (vii)

Dr Nusha Yonkova learned a lot from working in Immigrant Council of Ireland, this helped her to shape her values and belief in human rights and social justice. Despite of all the effort of social workers, community workers, authorities and Immigrant Council of Ireland and women organisation that are supporting the victims of human trafficking and social injustices it is still happening in our society, She stated that, “We are not nearing the end of it because the disadvantages are still very real and palpable, permeating every sphere of life – political partaking, work, education, salary level, career progression but also domestic sphere marred by imbalances and violence and of course the painful issue of gender-based violence perpetrated against women in multiple ways – sexual and intimate partner violence, domestic and sex trafficking, prostitution, pornography, grooming, sexual harassment, honour-based violence, FGM, sale of babies and exploitation of the sexual and reproductive function of women. It is endless indeed.’’ (Dr Yonkova, 2021)(viii) She also believes that because of the effort of these organisations who continuously support these victims and advocates for their rights, there is still improvement to the system. It might be frustratingly slow but there is positive change in our society today. (ix)

Currently, Dr Yonkova is embarking on a new journey as head of an anti-trafficking team at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, recently appointed as an Independent National Rapporteur.


Interview questions answered by Dr Nusha Yonkova March 18, 2021
Bassett, Fred, et al. (2019) “Sex Slavery in the Land of Saints and Snakes: Millions Being Made by Criminal Gangs across the Country. Where Is the CAB?” Who Watches the Watchers?, , [Accessed on 10th March 2021]

Bialasiewicz (2019), (Image: Katarzyna. “Women Trafficked into Ireland Are Being Controlled by Voodoo Rituals and Threats.” Irish Mirror, Available Online: . [Accessed on 13th March 2021].

Horgan (2020). “Ireland Criticised for 'Major Failings' in Its Treatment of Human Trafficking Victims.” The Irish Times, The Irish Times Available Online: . [Accessed on 20th March 2021].

Immigrant Council of Ireland (2020) “Major Problems with How Ireland Treats Victims of Trafficking Identified in Annual Global Report.” Immigrant Council of Ireland, Available Online: . [Accessed on 20th March 2021].

Pollak (2019). “Women in Direct Provision Being 'Pushed into Prostitution'.” The Irish Times, The Irish Times, Available Online: . [Accessed on 20th March 2021].

(i) Written interview question answered by Dr Nusha Yonkova [Accessed 20th of March 2021]
(ii) Irishtimes [Accessed 20th of March 2021]
(iii) Irishtimes [Accessed 20th of March 2021]
(iv) Irishtimes [Accessed 20th of March 021]
(v) Written interview question answered by Dr Nusha Yonkova [Accessed 20th of March 2021]
(vi) Written interview question answered by Dr Nusha Yonkova [Accessed 20th of March 2021]
(vii) Written interview question answered by Dr Nusha Yonkova [Accessed 20th of March 2021]
(viii) Written interview question answered by Dr Nusha Yonkova [Accessed 20th of March 2021]
(ix) Written interview question answered by Dr Nusha Yonkova [Accessed 20th of March 2021]


Izabela Naydenova

said on 24/04/2021 at 15:35

Thanks very much Regina, for sharing Dr Yonkova's story. She is a real role model - with hard work, dedication and compassion she is pursuing and achieving her dreams and makes the world a better place.

Sean Coleman

said on 15/04/2021 at 19:23

Well done to Dr Nusha Yonkova, bringing to light some of the shameful things that occur here in Ireland. And well done to Regina for enlightening me on Dr Yonkova's work. Keep up the good work.

Timmy Dunne

said on 15/04/2021 at 16:37

Dr Yonkova should be viewed as an inspiration to all, not necessarily those working in her field of human trafficking. The desire to protect those who can't protect themselves due to circumstance and the tenacity to overcome any challenges are admirable traits, and appear to be key traits to her success.

Martin Dillon

said on 15/04/2021 at 15:02

Regina, another great story shared, Dr Nusha Yonkova has given us a brief insight into the challenges that face women and migrants not just on a national level but also globally.