Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Leaving for Ethiopia: Cleansing the Lens of the Soul!

By: Nasir Al-Amin
Tonight, I have a redeye flight to Ethiopia. My journeys to Ethiopia always have a dual agenda/reality attached to them. Outwardly, my journeys are work related. Inwardly, they are transformative, therapy for soul, a stimulus to refocus. Thus, the outward and inward aims of this trip are the following:

1) Yousef: One of the orphans we work with has been in the hospital for a month. Previously he was diagnosed with HIV+ and I have been informed that his body has adjusted to his medication, and thus stopped working effectively. I hear he is in critical condition, so my main aim is to check on him.

2) Commercial Sex Workers (CSW): Last year we launched a project to provide skill training (sewing and tailoring) to 10 women engaged in CSW. I'm going to follow-up with them the about skills they have gained and their life post-intervention.

3) Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs): In partnership with HAPSCO, an NGO based in Ethiopia, ALIF provides monetary assistance for school fees, food, and housing to impoverished and/or HIV/AIDS infected children that have lost one or both parents.

4) Donated School Supplies: A Kuwaiti volunteer, Noura, 
donated school supplies for the children we serve. Therefore, I will have the pleasure to see their smiles as I give them the supplies.  

5) Listen, Observe and Reflect: My first trip to Ethiopia in 2002 fostered a paradigm shift, in that the way I viewed the world and my role in it changed significantly. Each subsequent trip has helped to cleanse the lens through which I perceive, understand and process life experiences and the realities of others. The poor and marginalized have given me something priceless: "the gift of perspective."

Monday, April 27, 2009

In their words...

“There are some that try to steal from you forcefully and others would try to kill you, just as someone killed one of my girl friends.
(CSW, 22 years old, bar-worker, Assab)

Source: Staying Safe on the Streets
(UNAIDS, UNFPA, Min. of Health Gov. of Eritrea)
Click here to read the full report!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

In their words...

A couple of the key informants spoke of Muslim men from adjoining countries (e.g. Sudan, Saudi Arabia) as being common clientele.

“They are ‘over satisfied ones’, those who have much money. Some come from  foreign countries for vacation. For example from Saudi Arabia because there  is “Sharia” law, they come here and pay so much money they can do whatever they want. They are Eritreans who live abroad; they live in Saudi Arabia.(Key informant, student, 20 years old, Dekemhare)

Source: Staying Safe on the Streets
(UNAIDS, UNFPA, Min. of Health Gov. of Eritrea)
Click here to read the full report!

Friday, April 24, 2009

KENYA: HIV-positive people feeling the pinch of high food prices

Source: IRIN/PlusNews
The following are direct quotes from the article:

*Soaring food prices are beginning to affect the health of HIV-positive people in Kenya.

*"The success of ARV drugs is no more; many patients are suffering seriously,"...They have developed health complications because they cannot afford basic food, leave alone a balanced diet."

*According to the UNAIDS,
adequate nutrition plays a crucial role in maintaining the immune systems of people living with HIV and AIDS, as well as helping to ensure that those on treatment get the maximum benefits from antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

*The latest humanitarian food update by the UN...Kenya could expect a food deficit as a result of global food shortages, increased food prices and reduced production, compounded by poor rains and the displacement of people...

*Rama said families had been forced to increase spending on food to ensure their HIV-positive family members had a balanced diet, at the expense of other essential requirements like their children's education...
some of the poorer HIV/AIDS patients had begun rejecting free life-prolonging ARV medication because of the side effects of taking the drugs on an empty stomach.

*Mary is afraid her chances of living much longer are being compromised by the food shortages. "I have developed many health problems in the past three months. I had malaria, pneumonia and now I have TB [tuberculosis]; I can no longer wash people's clothes to feed my three children," said the mother of three who tested HIV-positive three years ago.

*...high food prices were also affecting HIV prevention efforts, because girls and women were being forced into commercial sex work to feed themselves and their families. "Food insecurity has been one of the major factors responsible for HIV/AIDS cases in northern Kenya," he said. "It is worse now, and we fear that many girls and women will fall victim to the virus now."

Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In their words...

“…Many people are really shocked to see us. I am young and my friends are younger than I am. If there were rehabilitation centres I wouldn’t choose prostitution. I would love to learn, play and live." (CSW, solicits from nightclubs, 18 year old, Massawa)

“The solution is for the government to give us alternative work, like a trade, in order that we can leave this job…I will be able to create a good future for my children; a chance for them to be educated.” (CSW, working from home, 28 year old, Keren)

Source: Staying Safe on the Streets
(UNAIDS, UNFPA, Min. of Health Gov. of Eritrea)
Click here to read the full report!

YEMEN: Poverty, lack of education boosting HIV/AIDS


The following are direct quotes from the article:

*Maha (not her real name), 22, has been a commercial sex worker since she was 17. She told IRIN she and her sister were forced into prostitution to provide food and medical treatment for their ailing mother. 

*"My father died when we were young and so my mother had to work as a house maid. We lived as destitutes and we could not continue our education. My mother got cancer and my sister and I decided to work on the street," she said. "Prostitution has become our source of income. We have no education or skills... Job opportunities are very scarce," she said.

*When asked whether she was at risk of HIV/AIDS, Maha said she had never been tested. "We hear about AIDS and all I know about it is that it is fatal. I think Yemen is safe as it is a Muslim country. AIDS comes from Western people and we don't sleep with them," she said.

*Experts say Yemenis are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS as a result of high rates of poverty and lack of education.

*According to the US Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Report 2006, Yemeni children were trafficked internally for sexual exploitation, and Yemen was also a destination country for trafficked Iraqi women.

*Some 16 percent of Yemen's 21 million population lives on less than US$1 a day and 45 percent lives on less than US$2 a day, according to UNDP

Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In their words...

“The situation is hard; there are no jobs. If you want to help us, create job opportunities for us or give us education. If this is done, we sex workers will not exist, so there will no longer be any clients.” 
(CSW, solicits from nightclubs and streets, 25 year old, Asmara)

Source: Staying Safe on the Streets
(UNAIDS, UNFPA, Min. of Health Gov. of Eritrea)
Click here to read the full report!

Report: Staying Safe on the Streets

The following are direct quotes from the article:
Staying Safe on the Streets: A Situational Analysis of Commercial Sex Work in Eritrea

Major Findings
Classification of sex workers
Commercial sex workers (CSW) are usually classified according to the type of place from which they operate, namely from bars, hotels, their own houses or from the streets, and there are differences in the type of clientele for each of these types, and in the fees that they charge (as discussed below). Often they are also grouped according to their age group – usually into what are commonly referred to as “underage” girls (below 18 years), and older women. Some classify CSWs according to whether they are registered or not; the latter are often referred to as “secret” CSWs, who usually have other occupations too. CSWs who work in bars are apparently often not paid to do so; their payment is in return for sex with clients who frequent the bars.

Problems faced by CSWs
Most agreed that there is significant competition between CSWs, based on the clothes and jewellery that they wear, their hairstyles, their youth and beauty. Key informants had sometimes witnessed nasty fights (involving broken bottles, for example) between CSWs, though others spoke of a strong support system amongst fellow CSWs. The main problems faced by CSWs include violence from clients, clients who refuse to use condoms or who deliberately take them off or tear them during sex, a lack of alternative job opportunities and requests for ‘unusual’ or distasteful sexual acts by their clients.

Possible interventions
The main suggestions for intervention included the facilitation of employment opportunities and training for CSWs, and the provision of more entertainment facilities for youth, to detract from the demand for prostitutes. Several wanted the female condom to be made widely available to CSWs. Rehabilitation centres were suggested, too. CSWs reacted favourably to the idea of peer education and other health-related programmes. They felt that registration appealed on account of their being able to have frequent health-check-ups and free STI treatment but noted that some CSWs resist registration because they fear an HIV positive test result or are afraid of identifying themselves as commercial sex workers.

Source: Staying Safe on the Streets
(UNAIDS, UNFPA, Min. of Health Gov. of Eritrea)
Click here to read the full report!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

In their words...

“ There are those clients who if you refuse to go with them, start hitting you. This is a life where you cry more than you are happy.” (CSW, bar worker, 30 year old, Massawa)

Source: Staying Safe on the Streets
(UNAIDS, UNFPA, Min. of Health Gov. of Eritrea)
Click here to read the full report!

Help Kenyan Women Leave Risky Work Behind

USAID, Peace Corps Help Kenyan Women Leave Risky Work Behind
Source: USAID (FrontLines-April 2009)
Writer: Kim Wylie
The following are direct quotes from the article:

*USAID started the project in East Africa in 2005 and aims to reduce the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS in towns along major transport routes. These towns have high rates of commercial sex work and multiple sexual partners, and, consequently, high rates of HIV.

*As many as 80 percent of women in these communities have turned to sex work, including with truck drivers, because few opportunities exist for other kinds of work

*The LifeWorks Partnership Trust, one component of ROADS, supports alternative jobs that help women earn money. LifeWorks Shukrani Ltd., for example, is a company that produces shawls, placemats, napkins, table runners, and tote bags. It employs 21 Kenyan women.

*The stories of the Shukrani workers appeal to socially-conscious buyers who are able to put dollars into the pockets of the most vulnerable in these communities—women and older orphans.

*Shukrani’s workers earn a fair daily wage and don’t have to engage in risky survival strategies to care for themselves or their families. “And we’re giving women access to health benefits and insurance and supporting them to open their own private bank accounts,” Domenico added.

*Seamstress Wanjiku (a pseudonym), 22, who was orphaned at 16, said: “This project recruits people who are hopeless in life and kind of gives them a safe haven. They can meet their basic needs and there’s no reason to go back to the road” to sex work.

Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Zimbabwe: The Supply And Demand of Sex Work

Source: allAfrica.com
Writer: Fungai Machirori

The following are direct quotes from the article:

*Yet, as the global economic crisis deepens, rising numbers of women turn to sex work for income. Poverty increasingly has a feminine face. In countries like Zimbabwe, there are countless stories of former teachers and government workers turning to sex work.

*For many, lack of options stem largely from deeply entrenched gender inequalities that prevent accessing resources needed to generate income, such as land, credit, and trade opportunities.

*Criminalisation of sex work usually targets the supply side of commercial sex, and never the demand side. Police charge the sex worker with loitering or some other offence, and never her client.

*Decriminalising sex work would mean the usual labour laws and regulations could be applied, and sex workers could claim their rights to good working conditions, equitable pay and medical aid. They would not be informal traders any longer, but taxpayers sowing back revenue towards the growth and maintenance of essential public services such as hospitals, clinics, and schools.

*Decriminalisation would also criminalise offences committed against sex workers -- by clients, pimps, or police. Such protection would make sex workers more visible within society and therefore far easier to reach with information on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services -- all of which they currently lack.

*Denying the reality of commercial sex work is like trying to hide an elephant in a room -- no one is fooled. Let us not forget that sex workers are human beings who deserve the same dignity and respect bestowed upon every person by virtue of their being human. Rather than continue to criminalise the practice, let's rather make it safe, and provide access to the resources that would enable women to earn income in other ways...

Click here to read the full article.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Divine Light...

"Everybody carries the extraordinary spark of the divine light that has been put in us."  (Hamza Yusuf)