Ladies of the night in Nyamapanda had an opportunity to mix and mingle with health ambassador First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa who, besides seeking to empower them through income-generating projects, wants to protect them from diseases that are prevalent in the world of prostitution.
The First Lady encouraged the women to quit the world’s oldest profession, which exposes them to physical violence, loss of dignity and diseases.
However, she acknowledged that the women were peddling their bodies owing to various circumstances beyond their control.
Amai Mnangagwa is working flat out taking these women off the streets as she continues with her drive of not leaving no one behind.
Popular for her solutions-based approach, Amai Mnangagwa brought along the chief executive of the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank Mandas Marikanda and other teams from the bank to explain the various projects the bank could help the women venture into.
The ladies thanked Amai Mnangagwa for her intervention and vowed to quit and open a new chapter with her assistance.
The First Lady also took time to interact with teen mothers from the area who are also going to benefit from the said projects through the Women’s bank so that they become self-sufficient and look after their children.
Talking to the former ladies of the night, the First Lady said: “The work you are doing vanangu, you did not get in it because of choice, but situations. Some saw it as the only avenue of survival. The challenges you face are severe. Some of you said sometimes men sleep with you with a knife under the pillow.
“Today I want you to highlight some of the issues because I understand since you are not the first group as you do this to look after your families.
“If you are beaten up or if the man uses you, he may leave without paying and if you ask for your money you are beaten. There are a lot of scars and diseases in the profession. You can’t stand up to a man because the power is less.
“All these are challenges that you face, but as your mother, I am saying izvi cherai kakomba musiye vanangu mutange maprojects and work for your children. I want you to form groups and start income generating projects. I want you to highlight the type of projects you would want to venture into and the Women’s bank will assist you all the way.
That is why I have come with them to take you through the process.”
The women did not disappoint as they had a list of projects they wanted the mother of the nation to assist them venture into.
Speaking on behalf of the group, one of the women expressed gratitude to Amai Mnangagwa for her unconditional love.
“We thank you for coming here Amai, you have opened our minds,” she said.
“We had nowhere to start from but now that you have come, we believe in you, our lives are going to change.
“Amai we sometimes meet men whom we label ‘Boko Haram’ and these men use us and threaten us with death. They do not pay for our services. After using us, they cross the border and we will never see them and even if we report to the police, it will not be of any use because they would have skipped the border.
“We also contract venereal diseases like HIV, STIs and TB or being knifed requiring treatment. At times we will be the breadwinners back home and our money is too little. If we fall sick, there are even more serious problems.
“Due to the pressing need to raise income to cater for the needs of our children and parents back home, at times we sacrifice to have unprotected sexual intercourse to get more money. As for projects Mama, we can do poultry and goat rearing.
“We are also able to form groups and start cooking and sewing projects if we are given sewing machines. The ladies said there were good tailors among them who could do wonders if given access to sewing machines. Cooking projects will also be viable considering that Nyamapanda is a border town and we will be targeting mostly truck drivers.
“We would also be grateful If we can make freezits we can eke out a living because this area is ever hot. Amongst us, there are also good hairdressers such that if given a space and equipment to start our salon, we can do wonders.”
Some of the ladies said they did not have national registration documents, whereupon the First Lady advised them about the ongoing mobile registrations blitz by the Government.
One of the women said she was glad to have met the First Lady and was willing to change for good.
“I am grateful to you for visiting this area Mama and I am overjoyed,” she said.
“I entered this job after being raped. I lost parents at a tender age and I was the eldest meaning I was left with the burden of looking after my siblings. I had a child as a result of the rape and lost hope in life following the incident. I then decided to join the oldest profession.
“We are tired of sleeping with men whom we do not love just to feed the children and other orphans at home. I am tired of this job Mama, I want to quit.
“It is tough to wait at a bar without knowing whether you will get money. At times we dance to entice men and be noticed, but to no avail.
“Some men threaten to kill us after unprotected sex. My life is tough and may God bless you for coming here to assist us Amai. We are willing to work and earn decent money. I will not return to the bar again and God has changed all of us through you. May God bless you.”
Another lady from the same group who had a child of mixed race, left the gathering in stitches when she said the child showed how they slept with all sorts of men of different race for survival.
After her interaction with the ladies of the night, Amai Mnangagwa then engaged the teen mothers who indicated that they were aged between 14 and 17.
The First Lady is going around the country raising awareness against early child marriages and teen pregnancies which exposes the girls to health complications.
She spoke to teen mothers drawn from around Mudzi district who narrated the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.
One who is 14-years-old and expecting said she lives with her 24-year-old husband, but the mother of the nation immediately raised a red flag saying she was too young to satisfy the demands of running a home and bearing children.
She then implored the local traditional chief who was present to look into the matter saying the girl was under age.
Others shed tears while narrating tear-jerking experiences.
Most of the men reportedly dumped the young women when they discovered that they were pregnant.
The First Lady urged the women to put their past behind them and prepare to face the future in a focused manner.
“We have come to discuss with you and assist you,” she said.
“What happened in the past is gone, work for your children now. Tell others who are left at home, share with them the dangers of having sexual relations before the time is right. You can start afresh and achieve your goals. The Women’s Bank is here to assist you.”
The Women’s Bank boss, Ms Marikanda, then educated the women- the teen mothers and former ladies of the night on projects and how their bank works.
“I have come with a team from the bank to assist you in the various projects you want to venture into. All the projects you spoke about are workable knowing where we are coming from and what is chasing after us.
“To break out of poverty, you need a project that has quick returns. If a project takes up to six months, you risk sliding back because you need food to live. We will do projects with you that have quick returns,” she said.
The bank is already on the ground to ensure the projects succeed.
The First Lady, who was accompanied by Senate President Mabel Chinomona, Minister of State for Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs and Devolution Aplonia Munzverengwi, and traditional chiefs pleaded with the chiefs to engage communities and raise awareness on child marriages and early pregnancies.
Teen mothers were given food hampers and baby blankets by the First Lady.