Sex worker cries out, seeks for assistance on education

A sex worker has urged the government, groups and other individuals that may want to train, empower or assist her to complete her education and find a job which is the only way to take her out of her sex-work profession.

The sex worker, who preferred to remain anonymous to protect her against profiling, while speaking exclusively to The PUNCH on Thursday in Abuja, also lamented her experience of sexual abuse and arrests by law enforcement agents in the course of her trade.

Speaking at a town hall meeting with stakeholders in sexual and reproductive health and the rights of vulnerable women/sex workers, she said that, as a sex worker, the responsibilities of her family have been borne by her since the death of her father because there has been no assistance coming from anyone. She added that once she is out of this trade, there wouldn’t be food on her family’s table.

The middle-aged sex worker noted, “I have had so many ugly experiences being a sex worker; I had physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and I was arrested by the police countless times by the police and task force. I do not have any business to do except for the government, which will help train me on something to do, help me finish my education and find a job, or help me start a business.

“That is the only way I can stop because I have my family to take care of. I have my mother, and my younger siblings, though my father died three years ago and I don’t have anybody that is helping me. This is what I do to take care of my family, if I stop, how do I feed them?

“I would like to do anything at all with what they provided me with, if it is business, or anything I can learn, skill acquisition, I am available. The condition puts somebody to do this, not that I just decided to do it. Nobody in this business will tell you that he/she is enjoying it.

While calling on the government to provide young girls coming up with empowerment programmes, she said, “They should remember all those girls that are coming up, fix them somewhere, and take care of them so that they will not have interest in sex work. But I can’t stop them from joining sex work because I don’t have money to give them, it is their lives, I am living my own, you are living yours, too.

While maintaining that she will not advise young girls to join the trade, she observed that she can’t stop them from joining sex work, hence she wouldn’t have the money to give those girls.

“It is their lives, I am living my own, and you are living yours, too,” she sobbed.

The Town Hall meeting brought together stakeholders comprising people across the country, including traditional rulers, police, the human rights commission, religious leaders, Hisbah, sex workers, the media, and the Justice Ministry.

In her submission, the organiser of Ngozi Nwosu-Juba, Project Director, Vision Spring Initiatives, pointed out that her organisation is developing a project that targets 10 sex workers out of the 40 that will be empowered with at least N400, 000 by December.

She maintained, “The new project that we will have with N-Power is reaching out to 40 sex workers, 10 of them by December will be empowered with at least N400,000 per sex worker to set up their own business, and we are hoping over the years we will keep helping them for those who are tired of this way of life to come out of the trade to focus on other parts.

Nwosu-Juba, while advising government and law enforcement officers to show more empathy, because if they weren’t in sex work they wouldn’t have had anything to do adding that it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, the human rights organisations, and the police to rally around them and support them.

Remarking further, she stated, “We started a project by making sure that law enforcement officers do not violate the rights of sex workers by breaking into their brothels, keeping them in cells, and harassing them.

Stephanie Okoriko, Programme Manager, Nigeria Sex Worker Association, which is an umbrella association that covers 28 other sex workers’ community-based CBOs, said that the formation of the organisation is to unify all sex workers and to seek redress for all the challenges faced by sex workers.

“The main challenge we have is police brutality. In the Nigerian constitution, sex work has never been criminalised. So, we suffer stigmatisation and discrimination from society, health workers, and the family, limited health services, and not getting comprehensive sexual reproductive health and rights.