Memory Mpika (not her real name), 30, lives at Mgona Township in Lilongwe.
She is a sex worker who is grateful to Theatre for a Change (TfaC) for making her realise that she is not an outcast, but worthy and with rights.
Her father died when she was five and her mother when she was seven. She went to live with her grandmother from her mother’s side, before moving to live with her uncle, who also later died.
She moved on to live with different relatives.
“I would go to school without even a pencil and lacked many essentials. I dropped out of school while in Standard Six,” says Phakamisa.
She is now a mother to a five-year-old daughter, who she says is her biggest motivation to quit the sex trade.
“My daughter is five and I do not want her to take the direction I took. If I had a choice, I would quit, but I do not have any other means to make money.
“These days everything needs money. For my daughter to eat and go to school, I need money,” she says, admitting that even the money she earns from sex trade does not suffice.
TfaC head of community department Grace Kabango says women in sex work are now more knowledgeable about sexual and reproductive health.
Says Kabango: “There has also been a change of attitudes towards risky behaviour with an increase in condom use. Since the project has an economic empowerment component, women in social work have established alternative ways of earning a living to reduce risky behaviour.”
“Irrespective of their profession, women in sex work are women and entitled to the same rights as all women in Malawi. That is the essence of this project”.
Over 3 403 women in sex work stand to benefit from TfaC’s four-year Tithandizane Project.
Up to 19 women in sex work from Lilongwe, Kasungu and Salima were trained in sexual and reproductive health; rights knowledge and facilitation skills.
With support from TfaC, National Association for People Living with HIV and Aids in Malawi (Napham) and Malawi Red Cross Society, women in sex work will run three months behaviour change workshops with 600 female sex workers in the three districts over three years.
Kabango further says that through Interactive and legislative theatre performances, TfaC will provide a platform to raise awareness and deal with sensitive issues concerning the rights of women in sex work, as well as tackling the protection of sexually exploited girls and those at risk of sexual exploitation. n