Prostitution is met with education

Text Donald Boström

According to sources from pact, there are 2,500 prostitutes in Addis Ababa as of this year. This is considered a social catastrophe which prompts the spread of hiv/aids across the country and the number is increasing day by day. pact and hiwot-integrated development association have worked in partnership with sida since 2005 to find and help the young women get out of prostitution and get them back to education.

Frehioot, mahlet and enate recount how they ended up as prostitutes and how they got themselves out of it. We are sitting in the Beauty Salon which these three young women have opened with the help of the hiwot-Integrated Development Association. They have been trained as hairdressers who can produce the latest styles for their customers or a beautiful manicure if they prefer.

They talk about the feeling of freedom they experienced when they first began as prostitutes. How it felt to earn a lot of money. 150 Birr per customer was a lot of money for someone so young. They hung out at a hotel and the customers paid. They felt they could do whatever they wanted: shop for clothes, buy cigarettes – money was not the problem, though it had always been when they were growing up. As young ambitious women they wanted so much. At the beginning they thought that it was worth it.

Twenty–one-year old Frehiwot started very young. After conflict with her parents in 2005 she left home and started to pick up customers in the café where she worked. It was the money that tempted her and her friend Laura encouraged her. After all, they thought, there was a lot of money in it which made life easy.

Twenty-one-year old Enate says. “I had a really tough time during the years that I was a prostitute. Some men were extremely malicious. Men are cruel, but of course we also fall in love with them. Some others were so repellent that I couldn’t stand it. Others had an ejaculation before we had even started and forced me to wait until they could start again. It was a painful time and I thought every day about how I could stop. I was immediately ready to get out and be educated with Hida and Hiwot.“

Mahlet’s story is different. It started when her aunt took her to the capital from Debra Berhan, 130 kilometres north of Addis Ababa. “My aunt promised me work and lodging,” says Mahlet aged 22, “but she did not keep her promise. I was finally forced to move to a small room and started a prostitution in a restaurant. After that I was stuck for three years as a prostitute.

This was a time of disgust and humiliation with customers who were spiteful, refused to pay, or so physically repulsive that it was virtually impossible. That was when I refused. But I was happy at the beginning because I had money for everything.

“A year ago Hida, a social worker, from Hiwot came. I was at a meeting where they explained that I could earn the same money in a decent job,” explains Frehiwot.

“To be honest it was difficult to stop but I admitted myself to the training with Mahlet and Enate and became reconciled with my family and moved home again. With Hida’s help we were given premises by the local authorities and through Sida, pact and Hiwot we received a loan of 10,000 birr for equipment so that we could start our salon. After our previous business we were well-known and had a large network. This became our customer base.”

“I am happy and relieved that I have come out of prostitution and that my life has changed,”

Also Mahlet says “When Hida from Hiwot arrived with her offer it took a while for me to make my decision. I realised that the most important thing is not money but having a decent life.”

The hiwot – Integrated Development Association has worked for 12 years in two Woredas/districts in Addis Ababa. Their goal was to reach for 360 prostitutes over a period of 18 months. As a first step, they start discussions with the prostitutes about a change in attitude. Social workers, teachers, authorities, bar owners and alcohol store owners were invited to take part in the discussions so that they could understand what Hiwot is trying to do and to train them how to identify the prostitutes.

“We actually want to work where the prostitutes and customers are,” says Hida. “For example we have meetings once a week in one of the bars. Several bar owners have changed their business from a bar, where many prostitutes pick up their clients, and instead opened a café or restaurant. In this way we have been able to reduce the number of the commercial prostitutes in the area.

“The prostitutes are often also drug users which makes it extra hard when we invite them in. It is mostly their pimps, Balukas, who control their lives, take their money and abuse them sexually. In poor areas intercourse costs 2-10 Birr whilst a luxury version can cost up to 100 usd,” Hida concludes.

Publicerad i boken Poverty Reduction 2017

Donald Boströmwomen