This year has proved challenging for the Shining Star Project. COVID19 reached Zimbabwe in March 2020 and the government imposed a national lockdown. However, the work of the Shining Star Project is more important than ever during this disruptive time as more girls and young women are turning to sex work to survive.
In the first 6 months of 2020, the project has trained and mentored 33 new girls and women, engaged in sex work in Bulawayo and Hwange, as peer educators. They have joined 40 current peer educators to become change-makers in their communities.
Brilliantly, the 73 peer educators have reached 436 sex workers with vital sexual health information. These peer educators have also received business training, offering them pathways out of sex work.
As a result of the peer educator programme, 280 women were referred for HIV testing, 6 treated for STIs and 73 tested for cervical cancer. 2 ladies tested positive for HIV, and 3 were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and were referred to partner clinics for support.
15 peer educators who are living with HIV attended 2 support group sessions to encourage one another on treatment adherence, Peer support was especially important in protecting their mental health during the lockdown as, sadly, many experienced breaches of their privacy when collecting their antiretroviral medication.
8,802 condoms were distributed in the first 6 months of this year, which was highly important during the lockdown period as there was a condom shortage and price increase due to the closure of sexual health clinics and international supply chain disruptions, leading to an increase in STIs.
Aneni*, a 20 year old peer educator, tells her story
Shining Star changed my life. They saw my interest in the hair and beauty trade and sent me to Beauty Therapy School. Also, I learned how to look after my health by having one partner and getting tested for HIV and STIs.
As a peer educator, I can help others learn about and protect themselves from HIV and AIDS too. I am now more confident and believe that I can achieve anything.”
Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Workshop
The 53 peer educators in Bulawayo attended a GBV workshop led by lawyers and police officers to address issues of violence and stigma directed towards girls and women engaged in sex work.
The training equipped them with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves from GBV and seek necessary legal support.
The need: 84% of those who attended the training said they had suffered abuse in their work.
* name changed to protect identity