By Chanda Katongo
Monday, January 16, 2012
A nongovernmental group in Zambia has reached out to 7,000 sex workers since 1992 and has helped many find new occupations. But other women in the impoverished country don't think they can afford to quit. "I do this for my daughter," one says.
LUSAKA, Zambia (WOMENSENEWS) -- These days, Comfort Mwansa, 26, has a full, busy life.
While attending school, she also makes and sells doormats to meet expenses. She is looking forward to having a family and giving her children a better life than her own.
"I want to work hard and make sure that the children I will have in the future will have everything they need," she says.
Mwansa is one of many women who say their lives have been turned around by the Tasintha Programme, a grassroots nongovernmental organization that aims to eliminate commercial sex work and HIV/AIDS in Zambia.
Lucy Bwalya, Tasintha's program officer, says it has recruited and provided skills training to 7,000 female sex workers in Lusaka since 1992. Of them, about 60 percent have left sex work; 120 have died from AIDS and other diseases.
Kunda Matipa, Tasintha's operations officer, says that recruiting sex workers on the street to stop sex work and join Tasintha isn't easy.
"At times during the process of recruitment, we have to pretend to be a sex worker," he says of the female staff members. "Or if you are a man, you have to pretend to be buying sex."
Nearly 70 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line in Zambia, according to the World Bank. HIV prevalence is 13.5 percent among adults ages 15 to 49