Ministry Reaches Out to Sex Workers

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Help has been streaming in for women of Katutura’s informal settlements who are being driven by poverty to sell their bodies to provide for their children. For the first time since the establishment of Stand Together 11 years ago, the organisation re-ceived money from the Ministry of Health and Social Services. A Catholic Priest, Father Klein Hitpas Herman, who took it upon himself to look into the plight of sex workers said yesterday the ministry donated N$85 000 to the organisation last month. New Era wrote a number of articles about the plight of the mostly single women, who complained that they did not get assistance from anywhere apart from some organisation in Germany. Towards the end of last year, Stand Together had run out of money and Father Herman said he could no longer provide the food he used to give to the women every week. Herman said Stand Together was grateful for the assistance, which he considered a very big step. “The ministry says it is a gift and we have up to September to say what we did with the money,” he said. Apart from this, a group of 35 women from the organi-sation will undergo training courses to equip them in home-based care and skills training. The Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) under its Unit for Faith, Justice and Society has embarked on a yearlong project to provide HBC training for 25 women and also other skills in hair dressing and computers to 15 women, through which they can find jobs or employ themselves. The training, to start on May 2 was established last month after some of the women had gone to the council to ask for assistance. Some of the women, who have been in the trade for a long time told New Era early this year they were tired of selling their bodies and wanted decent ways of earning money for providing basic needs for their kids, sending them to school and paying municipal accounts. CCN’s project manager for HIV/AIDS Ludwig Beukes, under whom the training project falls, said the initiative started after the council failed to get organisations that are involved with the women. Since more than 75 percent of the 1 230 women are HIV-positive, the project will train them in HBC, for the trainees to go and raise awareness among the sex workers on the streets. Beukes noted that many women did not seek medical attention early enough until they were very sick. “We want these women to care for the others,” he added. The trainees will get a small allowance and three meals a day to stop them from going back to the streets. The project has also contacted an organisation to take care of the children who have dropped out of school because of their parents’ inability to keep them in school. Beukes said he hoped more organisations would come forward with assistance for the project to sustain the help it is providing to the women. It has been made possible with funds from the Global Fund. The project interviewed 52 women from which 35 were selected to start with the training, while others will follow suit. Depending on the success of the project, it may be rolled out to other areas such as Oshikango and Walvis Bay, where prostitution is rife. Some of the women have also enrolled with the Big Issue to sell magazines on the streets, while another intervention, according to Father Herman, is the possibility that Stand Together might receive funding from another German organisation.