Former sex workers see new lease of life:
Mujawayezu (L) and another former sex worker harvest tomatoes from their cooperative garden. SFH has provided them with socially acceptable livelihood. Cecile Mujawayezu 50, is one of the 95 former sex workers who is now benefitting from doing legal business and helping transform other sex workers through behavioral change.
It all started when she lost her husband and was left with a six months baby and nothing to feed him. She was entirely dependent on her husband for each and every need of her and the baby.
When he died, she didn’t know where to start from. She had never worked before and was always looking up to the husband for everything. She then joined the bandwagon of other sex workers in Gikondo.
She would use the little money she got from commercial sex for buying alcohol and drinking herself silly.
Mujawayezu got so engrossed as a sex worker and drunkard to the point that she abandoned her children. She would never care to know if her children have eaten or even gone to school as she narrates the rest of her story below.
It was not fun being a sex worker as I wasn’t really proud of it though I had the company of so many women doing the same. The money we would get wasn’t even enough to foot the bills for all my needs as I would still use it for alcohol and food for the children.
How SFH rescued her
In 2007, a group of people from PSI befriended Mujawayezu and started talking to her and other sex workers while gradually helping them to quit being sex workers.
SFH provided the sex workers with condoms and progressively kept on talking to them until they quit the vice. Mujawayezu and 94 other former sex workers were re-integrated into society.
“SFH helped us quit being sex workers. We now have jobs through their help and are earning money through the right means. We are no longer ashamed to say how we earn a living like it was before,” Mujawayezu said.
She is now the president of Rwiyemezamirimo Dufatanye, a cooperative mainly made up of former sex workers now engaging in business. The group of women sell charcoal, tomatoes and other groceries. They save and reinvest it in their business for growth.
The women also work at SFH and help with the packaging SFH Products. They are paid every 15 days. They use some of their savings to buy for each cooperative member a TV set, sofa sets and beds.
The women now have their own market through the support of SFH and other stakeholders. The First Lady of Rwanda also donated to them a green house for growing and irrigating their tomatoes.
Mujawayezu and 94 others are now teaching other sex workers about HIV Prevention, family planning and why they should use contraceptives.SFH gives them condoms to give out to other women while teaching them about HIV prevention.
Mujawayezu is now a changed woman. She is happily married with three children. She had a church wedding and now has three children; one has completed senior six and the other senior three. She is also a leader in charge of development in her mudugudu.
“Now we are the parents of other sex workers and doing our best to help them get rid of this evil trade. We always ask them whatever they would want to get from their being sex workers. If it’s a TV set or whatever we can handle, we buy it for them while talking to them about engaging in other dignified ways of earning a living,” she added.
Now her current business can earn her at least Rwf100,000 per month. She also works hand in hand with her husband to pay tuition for their children and meet their needs while helping other women too.
SFH (society for Family Health), a Rwandan social marketing NGO and a member of the Population Services International (PSI) global network believes that the most sustainable way to combat HIV/AIDS is by preaching the Gospel of “Behavioral Change”.
SFH distributes condoms (Prudence and Plasir brands) at subsidised prices and others freely throughout the country. Between 2009-2012, a total of 77,962,520 condoms have been distributed, more than 52 million condoms distributed through social marketing and more than 25 million condoms freely.