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Economic empowerment to stop prostitution

by Staff Reporter
23 Jun 2019 at 08:38hrs | Views
Sex workers in Gweru are receiving HIV prevention education, with most of them being asked to come up with business ideas to ensure that they get a comprehensive package of services to mitigate the impact of HIV.

This was done through the DREAMS project through funding from the National Aids Council (Nac).

DREAMS, which stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Aids-Free, Mentored and Safe, intends to address sexual reproductive health issues, counselling and prevention of gender-based violence among school-going girls and adult women between the ages of 15 and 24. During the recent visit in the Midlands Province, one of the beneficiaries, Tendai (20) said she has plans to leave sex work once her business starts to bring in some profits. Tendai got pregnant at a very tender age and never got the chance to go back to school. Her parents died when she was 7 and her grandmother was taking care of her.

When she got pregnant she was taken to her boyfriend who did not accept responsibility and that saw Tendai moving from one house to the other until she gave birth.

A kind aunt then offered to take care of her daughter after delivery and advised Tendai to look for a job as a house maid. Through interactions with other girls her age, she was introduced to sex work.

"I got pregnant at 13 and was forced out of school. I gave birth to my daughter soon after my 14th birthday.

"I then started sex work 15 months after giving birth and was completely clueless. I got treated for a number of sexually transmitted infections because I was not using protection and I also did not know about other preventive methods such as pre-exposure prophylaxis which I now have access to," narrated Tendai.

She added; "I then met other sex workers as days went by and they introduced me to The Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Aids Research Zimbabwe (CeSHHAR-Zimbabwe) where I got to learn about all the preventive methods I now know."

"I have access to information now, getting training on projects I can do to empower myself and hoping to retire from sex work soon," she said.

"My challenge however, is that things are really tough at the moment. My worry is that people may not buy enough firewood and the second hand clothes to sustain me, but I am willing to try hard.  

Nac Gweru Urban District Aids Co-ordinator Mr Murari Hwingwiri said they are training and assisting sex workers to come up with their income generating projects that Nac will fund to empower them so that they can better take care of themselves without selling sex.  

"This comes as a result of their lack of income generating projects which exposes them to abuse and other risks associated with their work hence we said we need to train them and assist them in coming up with business ideas that we can support.

"The long term vision is the reduction of these risky behaviours and equip these girls with life skills that can sustain them in the long run," Hwingwiri said.

Source - Sunday News