Championing healthy relationships

and sexual wellbeing

Nehemiah Project (Shining Star)

The Nehemiah AIDS Relief Project’s mission is to provide Christ’s hope to communities in Bulawayo and beyond in order to create a compassionate and caring, HIV/AIDS-free society in the city of Bulawayo and beyond. This is just as needed now as almost twenty years later Zimbabwe continues to face a staggering HIV prevalence rate with 15.3% of women and 10.2% of men living with HIV (ZIMPHIA, 2020). 

The Shining Star Project 

acet UK and the Nehemiah Project partner together through the Shining Star Project, which seeks to bring hope and healing to women and girls engaged in sex work in Bulawayo and the rural locations of Hwange and Plumtree. Living in poverty with little education or skills to draw upon, women resort to sex work to provide for their family’s basic needs. They are particularly at risk of HIV and STI transmission because this economic necessity and sexual and gender-based violence makes it hard for them to negotiate safer sexual practices and access quality healthcare. 

In an innovative model unique in Zimbabwe, the Nehemiah Project address the social stigma attached to sex workers by working with local churches to wholeheartedly welcome the Shining Star ladies into their church family. After the amazing success of the Bulawayo programme, the team now mentor and provide practical support to churches in other locations who have a heart to reach out to sex workers and change community attitudes towards them. 

"The project encourages safe sex practices by providing these services or creating linkages to access these services. The Shining Star project not only creates linkages to HIV services but is uniquely placed to create pathways to exit sex work, through livelihood support projects and spiritual strengthening." - Project Director, Empisa Nare 

Shining Star transformative activities: 

  • Peer education training which helps reach more women and girls in sex work with key sexual and reproductive health messages. 

  • Addressing sexual and gender-based violence through legal workshops for peer educators and outreach to men in sex work hotspots. 

  • Vocational and business training and coaching. 

  • Discipleship and life skills programmes to provide opportunities to explore God’s love, build relationships, and grow in confidence. 

  • Teen mum programme, providing parenting mentorship. 

  • Outreach to young people in universities. 

Through these activities, 80 precious ladies a year are being armed with knowledge and skills that allow them to be financially independent, and they are empowered to take the courageous step of leaving the sex trade. 

The Nehemiah Project team: 

The Project Director Empisa Nare, an experienced community health practitioner, is dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable girls and women and has been key in rolling out the Shining Star project to new areas and partnering with the local government in Bulawayo. She is supported by 10 passionate volunteers who support and mentor the peer educators in their mission.