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Sarafina: The Queen in Me

My community despised me due to the nature of my work. 

Growing up in an informal settlement, I experienced a lot of challenges and we lacked basic needs. Because my mother did not have any source of income, I began working as a prostitute at the age of sixteen so that I could earn money for school fees. While selling my body, I was sexually abused by someone I called my friend, and it caused me to hate and place blame on myself.

There came a time where I had to run away from home because of the stigma, so I went to live with my friends on Kayole Street. I grew addicted to using drugs that made me look as if I was mentally ill. As I continued working in the streets, I did not realize that I had gotten pregnant. When I found out, I had to return home to my mother so that she could provide my basic needs. I gave birth to a baby boy, but the situation worsened after my boy was born. My aunties and the community as a whole despised me—they told me that I had brought shame to my mother and our family. With no support from my family, eventually I had no other option but to return to prostitution to feed my son.

The MALKIA IN ME

While I was working the streets, I met Pauline, the social worker at FIH. She introduced me and fifteen other women to the Malkia program that she was leading. She explained to us what Malkia was about, and it made me very hopeful and happy to know not only that women in prostitution can live a better life, but that they have a platform for their voices to be heard in the community.

The Malkia program, meaning “Queen” in Kiswahili, taught us about self-love, sexual reproductive health, our rights, and healthy parenting. Through the vocational training offered within the program, I was able to learn many skills that I could use to earn an income outside of prostitution. The program allowed me to fulfill my dream of pursuing a course in catering, since I love cooking. I graduated from the program and I no longer work on the streets!

The Malkia program is important because it gave me the resources I needed to leave prostitution. It was a difficult step to take because it was the only life I knew, but with the help of counseling sessions, training on gender based violence, and lessons on managing stress and anxiety, I was able to open myself to other possibilities.

MY DREAM

My biggest dream is to help reduce the percentage of women working in prostitution, both within my community and other communities throughout Kenya. Since I have been there before, I know what the girls are going through on the streets. Through the leadership skills FIH has given me, I will be able to fulfill my own dreams and support the girls working in my slum. I am now working for FIH by overseeing the next cohort of the Malkia program—I couldn’t be more excited to let other women in prostitution know that there are options. In the coming years, I look forward to seeing that there are no women from my community working and being mistreated, all because they have not been exposed to other options in life. My strongest belief is that no woman was meant to be a prostitute.

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