In Zimbabwe, the Shining Star Project’s ministry to sex workers isn’t just about improving sexual health knowledge, it’s also about helping girls and women discover their value and worth. This past year, 40 more women and adolescent girls participated in sexual health education, income generation, and business skills training whilst also exploring their self worth.
During their first meeting, only 30% of the group knew how to correctly use a condom and half understood how HIV can be transmitted. Not surprisingly, some described their training experience as ‘eye opening’ as they learned more about sexual health and prepared to become peer educators within their communities.
Throughout the year, the peer educators have continued to refresh their knowledge and learn about new government initiatives like cancer screening and post exposure prophylaxis. Through their efforts they reached a further 2.405 sex workers with sexual health information and supported them in going for voluntary HIV counselling and testing at the local health clinic.
It was exciting to see knowledge increase among the educators as, by the end of their trainings, all knew how to correctly use a condom and understood the different modes of HIV transmission.
But even more exciting were the changes in how they felt about themselves.
At the beginning of the year, the self-confidence of these peer educators was extremely low. Many believed they were ‘good for nothing’ and ‘husband snatchers’ as this is how they were labelled in the community.
But with the support of their peers, project staff, and new understanding of their inherent worth, all 40 adolescents and women gained the confidence to leave the sex trade completely. And 37 also decided to give their lives over fully to Christ!
“I am 26 years old and a single mother of two. Before joining the Shining Star project, I was not working and couldn’t find a job because I was uneducated.
I struggled to pay my rent and school fees for my children. Because of my financial challenges, I slept with men for money.
I was invited by a friend to the Shining Star project. At first I was scared to attend their meetings as I thought that I would not fit in. However, the project leaders welcomed me with love and humility. I really enjoyed the hairdressing lessons. I made new friends and now I am no longer lonely.
They taught me many things: not to lose hope, to always believe in God, how to cope with hard circumstances and also how to treat myself in a loving and respectful way. I now trust God more and I have had opportunities to reach others as well.
Now I sew and sell curtains and do hairdressing from my home. I can afford to pay my children’s school fees and my rent on time. I don’t borrow as much as I used to and when I do, it is easier to pay back. The project empowered me to pay back my debts and people have started trusting me again.
In the future I see myself becoming a business woman and reaching out to needy and less privileged communities. I hope that my children will complete their studies and be whoever they want to be in life. I pray for a healthy and fulfilling life and am hopeful for a better future.”