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Community Network Movement for Marginalized Women-SL

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BACKGROUND
Community Network Movement for Marginalized Women in Sierra Leone is a Non- profit community based Network developed by the Youth Millennium Development Ambassadors Initiative in Sierra Leone aimed at promoting and empowering the must marginalize woman in society commonly women involved in Prostitution and sex trafficking.
Sex workers are among the most marginalized people in any society and often lack access to social and health support systems – while being at increased risk of HIV infection. Their rights to access health care and to be free from violence are frequently violated, making it essential that our organization work with them non-judgmentally.
Women in prostitution

What is commercial sex work or prostitution and where is it found?

Commercial sexual activity or prostitution involves the exchange of sexual services for money or goods, whether regularly or occasionally, for the purpose of generating income. Prostitution exists in every society. In cities, prostitution often is concentrated in public places, such as on the streets, or in brothels in specific areas. But commercial sex also thrives in less-well identified areas, such as on highways, in rural truck stops, and at bars and restaurants. In addition, studies show that poverty, war, and economic dislocation force many people to engage in the informal exchange of sex for basic goods on an intermittent basis, though these individuals are not formally recognized as .prostitutes..

Why do people engage in prostitution?

The vast majority of women, men, and children engaged in prostitution are driven there by poverty and economic dislocation, or in the case of trafficking, by coercion. Many studies have shown that people turn to prostitution when there is no viable alternative to meeting basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter for themselves and their families. These factors are especially relevant for women who may also be the main source of support for children and bother relatives. One study in India found that 50 percent of female prostitutes working in Kolkata brothels were supporting children. Women working for low-wages in factories, marketplaces, bars and restaurants may also engage in informal commercial sex transactions to make ends meet and to secure adequate food and housing. In sum, millions of people, and especially women, find themselves with no alternative to survival than engaging in commercial sex.

MISSION:

Community Network Movement for Marginalized Women in Sierra Leone seeks to:

Protect public health: Commercial sex is more likely to result in high rates of HIV transmission when associated with:
• Female poverty;
• High rates of sexually transmitted infections overall;
• Limited access to health care services;
• High rates of unprotected sex with clients who form an epidemiological bridge to low-risk partners and others in the general population.

Extremely high rates of HIV infection have been reported among prostitutes in Kenya and Zimbabwe (more than 80 percent); Cote d Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Malawi (more than 60 percent), and Benin, Mali, and Tanzania (more than 40 percent).

Programs that prevent transmission from groups with high rates of partner change to other groups are therefore a critical component of broader HIV prevention strategies, and ultimately prevent more cases of secondary transmission than interventions focused only on changing the behavior of low-risk populations.

OBJECTIVES:

Protect the basic human rights of prostitutes while creating alternatives to prostitution:

Our Network engage in a range of strategies and activities intended simultaneously to enable prostitutes to negotiate condom use with clients, protect the basic human rights of women working in prostitution, and provide alternatives to prostitution.

These include:
o Providing health education and information about HIV and related issues to prostitutes, clients and the broader population;
o Conducting peer education and community mobilization efforts to both encourage prostitutes and clients to use condoms, and to empower prostitutes to negotiate condom use with their clients;
o Providing increased access to medical services and to condoms;
o Providing social, legal and psychological support including specialized programs for those subject to bondage, trafficking and drug addiction;
o Promoting laws and policies that protect the basic human rights of prostitutes, including fair and ethical regulation of health and safety in the commercial sex industry; formal recognition and protection of prostitutes. civil rights; and equal access to housing and education;
o Providing alternative skills and literacy training.

Don.t these efforts just encourage prostitution?

No. Community Network Movement for Marginalized Women in Sierra Lone does not encourage prostitution.

Instead, we seek:

• In the short-term to improve health in part by enabling prostitutes to negotiate condom use with clients, and reduce the risk of infection in both groups; and
• In the long-term to provide prostitutes with the skills and opportunities needed to find other means of survival.

“Rescue” strategies do not work.

In the absence of viable economic alternatives to feed and clothe themselves and their families, prostitutes have resisted efforts to be rescued, instead demanding health care, improved working conditions, and access to condoms as better solutions.

In 1999, for example, 3000 prostitutes were removed from the Tanbazar brothel in Bangladesh. These women lived in the street and refused attempts to forcibly relocate them until a High Court decision declared their eviction invalid. During the eviction one sex worker commented; “Give us protection and health care, if you really care about us”.
The impact of prostitution in Sierra Leone
There is much evidence to show that prostitution is harmful to women directly involved, women in general, to men who buy, women in prostitution, to families and to communities:
• Women and children abused in prostitution experience severe and long lasting physical and mental health problems.
• Prostitution is harmful in and of itself, i.e. the constantly repeated experience of submitting to unwanted sex is very damaging to women’s mental health, self-esteem and sexuality.
• Having to endure unwanted sex leads to the need to dissociate – often using drugs and/or alcohol. Whatever the reason for women entering prostitution, her drug and alcohol use is likely to hugely increase.
• Many women involved in street prostitution do not have care of their children (usually as a consequence of drug and alcohol misuse). This has a strong impact on the women themselves and is a common issue they need support on through services. It also has an impact on the children, the extended family, for example grandparents bringing up grandchildren, and on child protection services.
• Impact on family life, for families where women become involved, and also families of men who buy sex: e.g. health risks, loss of income.
• Impact on communities, especially in areas where street prostitution takes place: debris, noise, increased traffic from kerb crawlers, harassment of local residents, witnessing sexual activity.
The Network is in partnership with NGOs, Civil Societies, Government and Other Donor Agencies aimed at promoting women living in marginalized communities.
According to the World Health Organization, AIDS is the leading cause of death among women between the ages of 15-44 worldwide. Nearly 60 percent of those living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women. There is a critical need to address inequalities between women and men that influence sexual behavior and the norms that put women at higher risk of infection and create barriers to accessing HIV/AIDS services. In response to women’s advocacy groups, Community Network Movement for Marginalized Women in Sierra Lone recognized that addressing gender issues is essential to reducing the vulnerability of women to HIV infection and responded by integrating gender strategies into its care, treatment, and prevention programs.
What will happen when these projects no longer exist?

HIV transmission rates among sex workers and their clients, partners, and children in the general population will increase. Women will continue to engage in commercial sexual exchanges while facing persistent legal and economic discrimination, making it harder for them to leave prostitution in the long run.

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