Imagine being so desperate for food that you say ‘yes’ to having sex with a stranger in return for some tomatoes and beans.
Tragically, this scenario is a grim reality for many girls and women in Zimbabwe, where the economy continues to crash, unemployment is staggeringly high, and in August, inflation rose to a mind-boggling 285%.
It is in this context that girls and women are feeling they have no option but to sell sex to survive. This often makes them feel worthless and incredibly ashamed. Entering the sex trade also puts them at severe risk of sexual gender-based violence, HIV and STI transmission, unplanned pregnancy, and emotional trauma.
Our partner, the Shining Star Project helps prevent HIV transmission amongst sex worker communities and to bring transformation to their lives. Their model is to train a core group of ladies engaged in sex work as peer educators. The peer educators then reach other girls and women in, or at risk of, sex work with vital sexual health messages and support. In 2022, 1,594 ladies have already been reached through 91 peer educators.
The project also empowers the ladies to exit the sex trade, by providing business and vocational skills training, business grants and access to further education so that the girls and women have alternative, sustainable employment options.
This holistic approach of supporting the ladies’ emotional, physical, sexual health and spiritual needs, is having a tangible impact on their lives, resulting in improved mental health and a real hope for the future for them and their children.
"The Shining Star Project has helped me with money to start a business. I am now a proud owner of a business that brings in enough money to take care of myself and contribute to my brother’s household.
I have stopped going to clubs to earn money. I have launched my business selling clothes and beauty products, and I have been able to make my first ever loan repayment.
The project has changed my life for the better. They found me when my life was heading in a bad direction. If I hadn’t connected with the project, I would still be earning a living by going to clubs, selling my body in exchange for money, and putting my health at risk. I would like to thank the Shining Star project for saving my life."