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.
Mwansa says she only thought about stopping sex work when workers from Tasintha Programme found her one evening and told her about their work.
When Mwansa joined Tasintha--which means "deeper transformation" in Chewa, a Zambian language--she underwent psychological, spiritual and nutritional counseling and learned about HIV prevention. The organization has its own clinic with a resident nurse from Monday to Friday and a doctor who visits the center twice a week.
Mwansa also received training in tailoring, poultry farming and information and communication technology, so she could begin thinking about other ways to make a living.
Mwansa says she no longer has sex with men for money.
"I am now able to say no to a man," she says with a smile on her face.
The middle daughter in a family of three children, Mwansa says she was drawn into sex work after her parents' divorce and the deaths of her mother and her sisters.
She found herself going to bars where older men would approach her and offer her large sums of money in exchange for sex. At first, she would shy away, but she says she eventually gave in.
"I was using the money to buy jewelry, clothes, cosmetics for my hair, beers and cigarettes," she says.
Her father eventually found out she was a sex worker.
"When my father found out about what I was doing from the neighbors in the compound where I was staying, he was heartbroken," she says. "I remember seeing him crying."
But he didn't try to stop her.
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"After some time, he accepted that I was a sex worker and did not speak about it," Mwansa says. "He just let me be."
Chanda Katongo reports for Global Press Institute's Zambia News Desk. She aims to cover issues related to youth in order to positively influence their lives.