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Gang raped, beaten and dumped at unknown places; Sex worker tranforms lives

Seeing Beatrice Chanda lecture a class full of obscene looking girls and women, one cannot imagine that the well-dressed lady, so eloquent in her lectures, was once a sex worker.
The only thing that tells of her past is her patched skinned face, due to overuse of skin bleaching chemicals, and a few scars as a result of beatings from men.
Chanda 37 is among the many women and girls who have fallen prey to sex work in Zambia, a country that has high levels of poverty. Over 65 percent of urban dwellers here survive on less than a dollar per day.
High prevalence of HIV/AIDS, where 14 percent of the 13 million population is infected, has led to the increase of orphans who are often left with no means of survival. To get by, many of the orphans become street kids and girls turn to sex work.
This the situation that Chanda, who today works as an activist to reform and prevent girls from joining sex work, found herself in when she lost both her parents at the age of 12.
Chanda explains that she was lured into prostitution after her aunt, who took custody of her, introduced her to a business of selling fritters at a drinking place near her area.
‘’My aunt never took me to school. Instead she started sending me to sell fritters at a nearby bar in our area. I was tasked to ensure there were no left over fritters, no matter how late it was,’’ Chanda recalls.
Before long, sex workers at the bar took interest in her and offered more money than the fritters cost and eventually employed her as their maid.
Chanda mistook the offer by sex workers for generosity; little did she know that the women were slowly luring her into sex work.
“I worked for some time as their maid, but still bringing the fritters to them and my aunt was not aware of this. I was later enticed with a lot of money…to join them in prostitution.’’
“I was young and most men preferred young girls so I attracted a lot of clients, but the women were getting the money on my behalf,” says Chanda.
Chanda remembers initially resisting most men until her ‘bosses’ took her through the business rituals.
“The women forced me to drink beer and smoke marijuana so I can be brave to have sex with any man,” she recalls.
After taking permanent residence with sex workers, Chanda embarked on seven year career of exchanging sex for money. She slept with three to five men per night but confesses she rarely enjoyed the act.
‘’Even when I’m tired, I would do it just for money. I never wanted money to bypass me.”
While the fear of getting infected with the incurable HIV/AIDS is what deters most people from engaging in careless sexual acts, she says otherwise.
“I was very aware of AIDS, but I was always drugged and when you see money all you want is to have it, and most of the time I never used condoms. I suffered from a lot of STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Fortunately I’m HIV negative,” says Chanda.
Chanda looks back at her profession with regret. For once she wears a sad face during the interview.
“Sex work is not an easy job, I wouldn’t like anyone to go through that.We were at times beaten, gang raped, and sometimes dumped at unknown places. Sometimes men would use you and instead of paying you, they would grab the little money you made, and leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere,’’ she says.

She recalls that her most frightening experience was when her friend was murdered during their tour of duty.
“A situation that made me think twice about this job was when we were picked with my friend by some men,” she narrates.
“To our surprise they told us to have sex with each other, we hesitated but they threatened to kill us and one of them placed a log in my friends private parts. I sensed danger and I asked if I could go to the toilet. I was ordered to leave my clothes. That is how I escaped, naked. I didn’t know where to go, but a good Samaritan helped me. My friend never came back.”
After five years in prostitution Chanda fell pregnant in 1992 and gave birth to a ‘fatherless’ baby girl. Parenthood gave Chanda more need for money. She continued her business and left her daughter in the care of a retired sex worker.
Chanda’s daughter is now pursuing her secondary school level and is not aware of how she came into existence.
“I told my daughter that her father died when she was young, and that I have lost track of her father’s relatives,’’ explains Chanda.
Chanda’s redemption process started when she met activists from a drop- in- centre ‘Tasinta,’ meaning deep transformation in the local Zambian language.
The activist offered counseling and life skills courses to Chanda and her friends. Equipped with tailoring and business management skills, Chanda was ready to reform and was offered a full time job at the drop-in- centre as an instructor.
After four years of working as an instructor, Chanda finally met the man of her life, who accepted her past life and married her. Today, Chanda lives a normal married life and is now a mother of three.
Her duties at the drop-in center involve counseling and giving life skills such as tailoring, catering, gardening, hair dressing and business management skills to help girls who are on the path of transformation from prostitution.
In addition to counseling sex workers, Chanda also teaches life skills to young girls who have no means of survival to prevent them from becoming prostitutes.
Chanda is proud to be part of the ‘Tasinta’ program that has transformed over a million prostitutes in the country. She stands as a true activist, sharing the same background with her students.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

nasreenamina's picture

This is a powerful story.

This is a powerful story. Above all it confirms once again that we always have a choice. There is no life totally wasted, or bad experience to be in vain. We can always transform bad into good and weak empowerment.

Prostitution, even if it seems that women freely choose as work is slavery. Behind every woman who chooses "free" to become a sex worker, there is a prison of poverty, loneliness, lack of opportunities, discrimination, low self-esteem, and so on.

People easily label prostitutes as undesirable. What is really undesirable, shameful and unacceptable is society allow a woman to work as such, because involves the use of women as commodities. The justification that "it is the world's oldest profession" is shameful because it means that the oppression of some over others has existed since the beginning and that can not be accepted.

One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion

Follow me @DivinaFeminista

Chinemu's picture

you are right

Ya you are right its never too late to change ones life

usha kc's picture

WOW! I saw the courageous

WOW! I saw the courageous heart in you and in Beatrice too. Thank you for raising the voice of such a brave woman!

Chinemu's picture

thanks

Thanks dear for encouraging me

ikirimat's picture

Thanks

You have chosen a topic people rarely talk about ant yet so sensitive and detrimental to many women's lives. Thanks for sharing

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."


Chinemu's picture

Its true

its true many women suffer silently with this vice

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Great story

I really loved the part about Chanda working to give young girls skills so that they don't have to enter the sex trade. Is the sex trade something that is talked about much in Zambia? It would be great to give a little more cultural context--do people accept that there is sex trade or do they punish the prostitutes? Great story, keep it up!

Kind regards,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Chinemu's picture

Sex Trade in Zambia

Hai Rachael,
Sex trade in Zambia is something unacceptable though its a very big industry because of high poverty levels.
Prostitutes face alot of stigma, others hide that they are sex workers well others do it openly. Zambian culture and law does not approve of a woman to be a sex worker, but it still happens.
Some of the sex workers complain of police brutality once they are picked at night, Some are raped by the same police men who are suppose to protect them.
This has made sex work a high risk job because the prostitutes can't run to the police for help, they are victimized further.

clarices's picture

Such resilience and strength

Dear Chinemu,

What a powerful example of resilience and strength this story tells! What made it even more meaningful was the way Chanda has not just transformed her own life, but that she has made it possible for other women to change the way they live, as well.

I would have loved to know more about how the Tasinta Center supports itself and what fuels the movement that makes it possible for more than a million former sex workers are now able to create healthy, productive lives for themselves as adults.

Good work!

Best wishes,
Clarice

Dear Chinemu,

This is such a valuable piece of writing-- thank you for sharing it!
I feel thoroughly drawn into and inspired by Beatrice Chanda's story, and for this I have you to thank! You have done such a wonderful job detailing the Chanda's experiences and transformation with clarity and narrative prowess that feels seamless for an interview-based piece.

This is wonderfully articulate, clear and concise writing that stays powerfully focused. Like Clarice above, I too would love to know a bit more about how the Tasinta center has come to be such a support for the transformation process of these women; it seems that the conclusion of the profile could be enriched information as well as by a description of how Chanda's transformation inspires you in particular.

I love the descriptive language, the eye for detail, in the introduction where you draw us an image of Chanda, because, in addition to creating an image we can visualize of Chanda, we see her through your eyes-- we experience the story from your perspective. This creates a kind of intimacy which connects you to your readers and which I think is a strength that you can draw on more in your writing. It is also an excellent way to complement your strength at objective reporting.

It's an honor to know you by your writing-- I look forward to reading more!

Love,
Farnoosh

Farnoosh Fathi

Farnoosh Fathi's picture

correction!

could be enriched information

should read

could be enriched by this information

( :

Farnoosh Fathi

Eileen Page's picture

Dear Chinemu, This story is

Dear Chinemu,
This story is gripping in the detail of Chandra and her life transformation.

Congratulations on presenting such a sensitive topic in a very powerful way.

Wonderful work!

Kind regards
Eileen

Eileen

MaDube's picture

Women like Chanda always

Women like Chanda always bring home the fact that it is never too late to transform our lives to be what we want them to be and not what they currently are. She is a brave and strong spirited woman. Thank you for writing her story so beautifully.

Chinemu's picture

Indeed

Indeed its never too late to change

mrbeckbeck's picture

Amazing story

Chinemu, what a courageous story. I love that Chanda is leading the way for young women, showing another life is possible. I am so impressed at how she survived the trials of her past, with the strength to now teach others.

Thank you for sharing this profile. She is truly a change-maker, giving skills to youth at risk of joining a dangerous trade.

Wishing you well for the year ahead,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Chinemu's picture

thanks

Thanks scott,

vivian's picture

Interesting story

Dear Chinemu,

I found your story so interesting and real. You have truly done a job work to identify a true activist within your community who is working for change out of experience. Her story is a big lesson to many girls in such practice. She is such a brave and courageous womn to associate with. Leaving her past and going ahead for a better future is the greatest gift she has given to herself and stepping it down to other young people of today is wonderful.

Thank you for sharing her story on world pulse, i wish you all the best during this period.

Vivian

''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Chinemu's picture

Thanks

Thanks Vivian, she is truly an activist

My Dear Chinemu,

I salute for this wonderful episode delivered by you. What happens in Zambia with sex workers is similar to Nigeria.
I have worked with sex workers for eight years in Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Botswana, Kenya, India, Thailand etc. I discovered they are human beings, women, girls, talented with great potentials.

My one problem is the society where they come from and the law enforcement agents. Oh my God - sex workers are marginalized, stigmatized, discriminated against and seen as no do goods. Who has ever thought of the hazards, vulnerability associated with what these girls go through, even though some willingly are in it but majority have similar story as Chanda's. Should we then throw the baby away with the bathing water because she is a sex worker? I am a sex worker human rights activist- do you know the number of women and girls in sex work in your community? those not in the brothels or standing on the street corner but stay with their parents or have their own place? I am going to march into HEAVEN to present sex workers as redeemed of the LORD.
On May 1, in Nigeria i am going to lead sex workers to join workers globally to tell the government to stop violations of their human rights.. So many sex workers have been killed and raped by the same law enforcement agents who are meant to protect them. The society has never given ears to hear a sex worker tell her own side of the story but judges her and disqualifies her. Chanda - i salute you for what you are doing and i know the pains, agony that you went through, everybody has forgotten so shortly, what about those that are still in sex work? let the government keep killing them. The sex worker is first a human being, then a woman, it does not matter how profession, we must protect them.

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