First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa greets Ms Karen Chitongo during her interactive session with single mothers in Seke recently. — Picture: John Manzongo
ABUSE, poverty and hopelessness feature prominently among reasons why many girls and women end up in prostitution to guarantee themselves and their children the next meal.
Notwithstanding diseases, violence, loss of dignity and stigma attached to this, the allure of a quick buck in the world’s oldest profession seems irresistible for scores of women.
However, like the proverbial good shepherd who does not sleep until the safety of all his flock has been assured, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, through her Angel of Hope Foundation, has rolled out countless empowerment initiatives to ensure single mothers earn a decent living.
And she is leaving no one behind as she has programmes that benefit almost everyone which dovetails with her calling as the Mother of the Nation who provides for all her children despite their circumstances in life.
As a mother, she has not been short of words of wisdom in restoring the dignity of women by encouraging them and offering practical solutions.
In a recent interactive session with single women and girls in Seke that she organised, Amai Mnangagwa heard heart pouring accounts of their experiences.
Left with little option due to various reasons, the women said they had ventured into the trade that is both dangerous and exploitative, just to survive. Among them is 54-year-old Ms Violet Nyamandi who says she resorted to the world’s oldest profession by economic circumstances.
“I was married under (the then) Chapter 37 of the Marriages Act and my marriage is still valid to date. I had two kids with my husband but he wanted six children. After having two children, I then failed to conceive again. My husband sent me packing in 2012 saying I had become barren.
“Things were hard for me as I was jobless. I could not fend for my children and decided to engage in prostitution to feed the family. The moment I started, I tested HIV positive and have been living positively for the past seven years.”
Asked whether she discloses her status to her clients, Ms Nyamandi said she insists that they use protection and sometimes she uses a female condom herself.
“I am now tired of this since I have grown old. The men are preferring younger women to us.”
She said her last born child is now 23years old and does not approve of what she is doing.
“Ndega ndakutonyarawo kuchinjanisa varume pane mwana (I am now ashamed of the fact that my children are aware I am sleeping with many men. I need to start on a fresh page and encourage other single ladies to leave the dangerous profession,” she said.
Ms Nyamandi is grateful to District Aids Council’s (DAC) representative Mrs Zvisinei Nyandoro for assisting them on HIV related issues.
Another 49-year-old sex worker and a grandmother who refused to be named said she was once married but later divorced, leaving her to raise four minors on her own.
“I became a sex worker because of situations. I was divorced in 1999 after having had four children. I could not fend for my children and owing to lack of education, I could not get a respectable job,” she said.
“I then told myself that prostitution was the answer and started frequenting beerhalls to fend for my family. I ended up getting infected with HIV and my fifth child was born positive and she later died aged 13. I also lost my other child last year and he was aged 29.
She added that she had been thinking of retiring because of age.
“Up to now I am a sex worker but all along I wished to work for myself and leave prostitution but I had no one to assist me like what has been done by the First Lady.
“I have three grandchildren and I look forward to make the best out of these projects she has introduced to us,” she said.
Their fellow “workmate” Ms Exodus Dzambo (27) blamed her circumstances on her parents’ divorce.
“I was 15 when my parents divorced and my father took everything, leaving us (my mother and three siblings) with nothing. The following year I dropped out of school because my mother could not afford sending me to school. I was now 16. I started dating a businessman and when I fell pregnant I eloped, but he was so abusive forcing me to go back to my mother’s house.
“When I gave birth, I was now the breadwinner at home. At 18 I went to Plumtree to look for a job and found one as a cook. I then dated another guy, again I fell pregnant and the man responsible became evasive,” she said.
She was carrying twins.
“I later suffered a miscarriage. From then, I ventured into prostitution and the money I get sustains the family. I am willing to start on a fresh page. I am living a painful life.”
Another sex worker, Ms Tatenda Musonza was grateful for the empowerment programmes being rolled out by the First Lady.
“We are committed to leave this life of darkness. We ventured into sex work because of situations. My age no longer permits and we are not getting anything because men are using us and sometimes refuse to pay us. We are abused. Sometimes you are threatened with death if you demand payment,” said Ms Musonza.
“I am a mother of four from different fathers. I had my first child at 14 years. I am an orphan and one of my children who is under age is already married because of situations. It seems were are cursed.
“We want to thank the First Lady for carrying us on her back and ensuring we leave the bars and use our hands.”
With Ms Bridget Muronzi, a single mother of three, hers is a different story.
She said she was struggling to look after her children but vowed never to become a sex worker.
“My husband was abusive and after me, he married three other women and we became four. I could not handle it and decided to leave. I went back to my mother’s house with my children.”
Ms Thamary Chikwinya (32) a single mother also said she has a Christian background hence would not go astray to become a commercial sex worker.
She has three children aged four, eight and 14. She got married at 17 but called it quits a few years later because her husband was abusive.
“I decided to leave my matrimonial house and went back to my mother’s house. I am not into sex work. We rely on farming with my mother to fend for the children and we welcome this initiative by Amai because it is a step in the right direction,” she said.
The First Lady is the country’s health ambassador with a passion for the well-being of women and children and the Seke women will soon start farming after Amai Mnangagwa assisted them in applying for a piece of land where they will grow crops, while carrying out other projects also through her foundation.
During the interface, she urged the women to shun prostitution.
“Among us we have young women who are still to be married and those that were married but have since opted out. We also have many who fell pregnant during the Covid-19 period but those responsible denied paternity. I want urge you all to be responsible and respect your bodies. Humhandara idambakamwe, naizvozvo chenjerai.
“I want to hear of girls who refuse to be defiled. Let us all use our hands to improve our lives and not peddle our flesh,” she said to a thunderous applause.
Chief Seke agreed with the First Lady’s sentiments and implored all women to embrace the projects she initiated and leave prostitution.
“Embrace what our mother has brought for us and leave works of darkness.
Refuse to be used.
“This is a challenge for you to welcome these projects which is a privilege. Show the world that you are hard workers and can work,” he said.
Who would have thought the First Lady, with all the prestige and privileges that go with her office, could humbly sit down with the sex workers, talk to them, hear their concerns and take them off the streets for a brighter feature.
The women described her as an Angel of Hope.