Determined to Keep Women Off the Streets

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Considering that prostitution has become a desperate survival tactic for some of the poor, illiterate and unemployed women, last year saw the formation of yet another organization to empower the women with skills. Registered as a welfare organisation with the Ministry of Health and Social Services in January 2005, the organisation, Combating of Prostitution through Education and Development Organisation (CPTEDO), wants to ultimately help find ways of eradicating prostitution from Namibia. Although prostitution is as old as the Bible and also said to be oldest profession on the face of the earth, it remains an activity that is driven by poverty. Amongst the poor, uneducated and unemployed, prostitution remains a source of hard-earned income to send children to school, pay municipal bills and also buy basic commodities for survival. Many women who ply this trade on the harsh streets of Windhoek, under bridges, in deserted buildings and also at shebeens, are residents of informal settlements, who have no other means of earning an income. CPTEDO is one of the organisations that was formed to ease the plight of women who want to earn an income decently without having to sell their bodies. The organisation’s project manager, Edwardt Xoagub, said the creation of job opportunities and other development programmes to improve the lives of the women were some of the oganisation’s ultimate goals. Apart from counseling on HIV/AIDS, prostitution itself, and disseminating information on the dangers of the pandemic, CPTEDO also wants to run programmes that will impart skills such as computer and needlework among other skills which will enable them to either get employment or get involved in income-generating activities. It also intends to consult the hospitality industry to solicit training for women in waitressing, house-keeping, laundry services and cooking. It also intends to consult the government to avail the women to be employed as cleaners for government buildings, state hospitals and other institutions. Xoagub said: “This will probably ease the plight of the sex workers as prostitution has been on the public health agenda since HIV/AIDS first emerged,” he said. Xoagub said prostitution has become a nationwide problem and it is believed to be a major contributing factor to the spread of the pandemic. Last year, the Standing Committee on Gender, Youth and Information of the National Council was tasked to carry out an investigation into the plight of sex workers, street kids and other vulnerable persons. The committee was tasked to investigate where the concerned group operates, the issue of pimps, abuse and violence, Satanism, whether government property is used for the activities and also whether the country has proper legislation to deal with the problem. Since November last year, 47 women have registered to take part in the organisation’s programmes. Xoagub, who was motivated into starting this organisation because he lost a niece to AIDS, said he realised that most organisations are into HIV/AIDS and not into issues that drive women to the streets. “It is my belief that personal growth and development will improve the lives of these women. Thus, the involvement of the government, its donor partners and United Nations agencies, would ease their plight,” he added. The courses the organisation will offer will be free of charge and the participants will not require any formal qualifications. Last year, CPTEDO received some money from UNAIDS, with which it carried out some administration work. Meanwhile, Xaogub is looking for a venue, computers, sewing machines and material. Finances permitting, the organisation also wants to send back young girls who have dropped out of school and have gone into prostitution to make ends meet. This and many other interventions are aimed at convincing sex workers that, “They were not born prostitutes but that circumstances that forced them into sex work, can be changed for the better.”

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