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MY EXPERIENCE WITH SEX WORKERS

Some time ago I spoke with sex workers in a bid to understand what goes on in their minds. It was a heartrending experience for me especially as I hadn't been in that kind of scenario before. One thing I gathered from these women is that they are dissatisfied with their way of life. They all expressed a desire to move on to alternative ways of acquiring income. Please read the full story here: http://www.genderdanger.com/Prostitution-in-Cameroon.html

N.B: Just copy and paste into your URL and you will get the story.

Comments

JaniceW's picture

Thank you for sharing their stories

I admire the government for putting vocational programs in place for sex-workers who wish to leave the business. I am curious though as to what some women "shy away" from these programs. Do you have any insight into this?

Wendyiscalm's picture

You are a strong lady.

Hi Precious,

I applaud you for being such a gutsy woman as to ask questions of the perpetrators. Not everyone would do that though they may want to. You are amazing. The article and your raising the issue will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Precious M's picture

No one wants to be identified

Hi JaniceW,

These women "shy away" from rehabilitation programs because they do not want to be identified as sex workers. It is difficult for them to come out and choose another means of life because they fear being stigmatised. Moreover, a lot of their families don't know the kind of business they do. So they prefer to remain in their present state though their hearts yearn for a change.

My pen speaks

JaniceW's picture

I see

So it makes me wonder if there are some women's empowerment programs that are available to any woman regardless of circumstances. That way, the women can join in without revealing what they do for income.

Thank you again for speaking with them and respectfully interacting with them in a way that honors their inner beauty and dignity. I am sure few engage with them in this way. No doubt, it was a wonderful reminder for them of who they are, not what they do.

Wendyiscalm's picture

Very thoughtful and sensitive

Hi Janice,

I realize you are writing to Precious, but I was very struck by your thought process and sensitivity and ideas regarding these sex workers. With people like you taking the time to explore and make suggestions means a lot to those of us trying to tell circumstances and make change. Thank you.

Ubuntu(I am who I am because of who we are together),

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Precious M's picture

Thanks Wendy

Dear Wendy,

Thanks for appreciating. It was not an easy task for me but with determination I could do it. I hope to conduct more challenging interviews.

My pen speaks

Wendyiscalm's picture

Yes

Yes, your pen speaks and that is a gift you have.

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Precious M's picture

Not Sure

Hi JaniceW,

From my findings, the vocational programs available are aimed at transforming women who were into negative ways of life. I am yet to find out if these programs are also available for every woman in spite of their condition.

My pen speaks

Wendyiscalm's picture

GOOD POINT PRECIOUS

Hi Precious,

I do not mean to interrupt or get into your conversation between yourself and Janice, BUT you have an excellent excellent point. Very sensitive and knowledgable of you. Women who are not in a negative extreme situation STILL have as big a need as those in abusive situations, to have someone help them ove out of the poverty line or to go the next step to make their dreams come true. In Livingstone Zambia where I work, I see women who have dreams, and brains, and the desire to work hard, but there are no programs for them, no one is helping them because they are not in a negative situation. So, they end up goin NOWHERE in their life. How terrible and sad to know you are not going to get anywhere. So, YES, there needs to be programs for those who do not have an extreme situation. In Livingstone, there is a street orphan trade school where both men and women can learn a trade. For example, a woman I personally know is taking the hotel certificate program so she can work in a hotel when she finishes. She is hungry in the meantime. But this is a good program.

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

JaniceW's picture

Please read Stella Paul's inspiring post

http://worldpulse.com/node/64245

Stella writes a story of hope for women (in this case) living with HIV in India, a country that does not look kindly upon those infected with the AIDs virus. I had to immediately write to you, Precious, as perhaps there are ideas here that might work for the sex worker community. [Wendy, I think you will enjoy the piece too.]

Best wishes,
Janice

Precious M's picture

True Talk Wendy

Wendy, every woman deserves a stable life with a regular source of income. Unfortunately, in the African society where we are, there is discrimination against women. So men tend to get the good jobs while women settle for the breadcrumbs. I'm glad to read about the kind of work you are doing in Zambia. Keep it going girl. I think more and more women should strive to be entrepreneurs rather than sit and wait for the government and other organisations to create opportunities for them. We need to think and act right.

Precious

My pen speaks

Wendyiscalm's picture

Good comments Precious

Hi Precious,

I enjoyed your response. Yes entrepreneurs are the hope of the future for these populations. Many are trying in Livingstone, Zambia. But Livingstone is SO poor that there is no one to buy their goods. However, one person I know, along with 14 other women, started a recycling business. They have people collect plastic, paper garbage and bring it to them and they are given a little money for bringing it. I think that is a brilliant idea. When I go back in March I hope and pray they are doing well but most things do not work in Livingstone. Partly because people are too poor to buy but also because most do not know how to do business. There are microfinance companies in Africa (and other developing countries) who come in and give loans to start a business. The problem is you have to qualify and fill out an application . Many fall through the cracks this way. Also, you have to be really really careful. The microfinance companies often charge a start up fee or they definitely have a HIGH interest rate, 16% or higher which sinks the business right off. They set up groups of women as a team to help each other but often they do not have the skills needed to run a business and are taken advantage of. But it IS improving so it can be good. The influence from men/husbands is still a problem and there is a lot of sabotage. But I bless these women I see with their business in the market selling tomatoes, lettuce, etc. They can't strive because they can't get out and no one helps them. BUT miracles are happening even if slowly. the women teachers (and men teachers) are not paid enough to even give their own kids a good quality of life so they become indifferent and have a don't care attitude. Who can blame them really.

I gave one woman 100 USD and busines cards to start a travel agency after she left working in management at the Golf Course. But she did not do well and had to close. She was a hard worker and good at networking BUT I think she did not know the right people and that MEN in the business and who would use the business sabotaged her. Don't know for sure. But I notice she has a big nice car now to put the plastic/paper garbage in and bring to the business.

The great thing I notice with the women who are in management positions is that they are really focused on doing whatever it takes to get their girls a good quality of education and they really have this as a focus with the attitude that they are the future generation of leaders in Zambia. They push their kids hard.

Interestingly enough, there is a WOMAN judge in the high courts, a WOMAN Bishop who has a church and WOMEN Doctors. This interests me because here in America we are just over the last 10 years getting to where we can have a woman be a priest and there are no women bishops.

Thanks for answering my message. I am sorry I wrote so much but when I get started on this topic I can't seem to stop.

Love and ubuntu,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Precious M's picture

Waoh!

Dear Wendy,

It is okay for you to write as much as you want to. These issues are worth talking about. I am so happy to hear that despite the odds some women can still stand out in male-dominated professions.

About Livingstone, I think something can be done to make the area more developed. This includes sensitization and aiding the women with start-up capitals for business. Since business does not thrive there much, I think proper research should be done before one ventures into a business or career.

I love the work you are doing. Please keep the fire burning.

Precious

My pen speaks

Precious M's picture

Thanks JaniceW

JaniceW, I am very grateful that you could think of referring me to Stella's story. I had already read her piece but when you recommended that I read it, I went there for a second glance. The basic thing I gathered from this story is the entrepreneurial spirit of these women with HIV. The sex worker community needs to emulate these examples and get out of their mess. If I get a means in the near future, I will provide capital so that each of these women can start businesses of their own.

My pen speaks

JaniceW's picture

Where is there a need?

In thinking about helping the women start their own businesses, one must consider where there is a need. For a business to work, there must be a demand for that service or product. You know better than any of us what the situation is like in Cameroon and what would work best.

For example, Frenny wrote about how food is dumped after market day as there is no refrigeration to preserve the food. In that instance, maybe people could take that food and cook meals from it to sell.
http://worldpulse.com/node/64315

Maybe a graduate from the vocation program could teach some of the women the skills she learnt, such as hairdressing. They could practice their skills by fashioning the hair of the sex workers. This serves several purposes: the women training to be hairdressers can practice their new skills on the sex workers; the sex workers receive free or low-cost hair styling while the women are practicing; and they see first-hand how these women are learning a new skill that will bring in income.

This is the foundation of a program called Each One Teach Five. The concept is that starting with one skilled worker, she teaches five women the skills she has and they in turn teach another 5 and so on – from one, you now have 25 women with new skills. Working within the sex worker community, you will have a greater chance of success as the newly-skilled women know exactly what their colleagues are going through; the anxieties, the doubts, the hopes and the dreams. All you need is for one to have broken the chain and for her to share her positive experience with five others as an example of what is possible. This has a ripple effect on the whole community. There is strength in them working together and as they are all in the same business, there can be themselves without feeling less than those around them.

I am just thinking out loud and again, you know best what would work in Cameroon. I would be happy to brainstorm with you if you like.

Best wishes,
Janice

Precious M's picture

You are right

Hi Janice,

Thank you so much for the useful ideas. You are right. Business thrives where there is a need and I think more hair dressers are needed in Douala. Since it is the economic capital of Cameroon, more people keep going there to seek for greener pastures. So it has a wide market. I love the Each One Teach Five program because it aids in multiplying the skills one person has acquired. You are quite intelligent Janice. The EOTF program is such a brilliant idea. Those who learn can in turn give back to society, and so on...

I think that the sex workers should have a wide range of vocations to choose from. Some people may not capture how to dress hair well but they will excel in other crafts. So it is important for them to have other options like dress making, bead making, frying puff-puff (a kind of snack made of flour locally made and sold in Cameroon), etc

I will gladly welcome any other suggestions you have.

Kind regards,
Precious

My pen speaks

JaniceW's picture

Cooperative?

I wonder if a cooperative model would work. The women join the Cooperative, contribute towards it through work or producing something, and then they all share in the profits. They collectively make decisions for the good of the cooperative as a whole. Here is some information about what a cooperative is and how you can start one. It's one idea to explore. Let me know what you think.

http://www.uk.coop/start-co-op

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