Her grandmother, however, didn't earn much, and with eight more mouths to feed, she often ran short of money and the children went to bed hungry. Her income came from collecting branches from a nearby forest and selling it as firewood. Hamida began to help her grandmother sell firewood at the marketplace, and after a while she also decided to drop out of school. They didn't earn enough money to pay for school fees for all the kids, and Hamida thought attending school was a waste of time because it meant she had less time to help her grandmother sell at the marketplace.
It was not easy to earn money selling wood. Oftentimes Hamida did not earn enough at the marketplace to buy food for the family. Men began to approach her for sex. At first she ignored the requests, but she saw that other girls in the marketplace went along with it. When those girls didn’t earn what was needed for the day from their goods trade, they would sleep with a man so that they could have enough money. Some of Hamida’s friends also became involved in transactional sex. And one day when she was desperate, Hamida tried it as well. Then whenever she was short of money, she would sleep with men. That was over four years ago.
Last year World Renew and its partner, Word Alive Commission on Relief and Development, started to reach out to girls in Hamida’s village who were engaged in transactional sex. At first she was suspicious of the program and the girls group that was formed in her village, but she learned that it was a safe place to ask questions and get information. In the group Hamida met other girls who had experiences similar to hers, and they could discuss their situations together. The group also encouraged Hamida to get HIV tested, so now she knows her status. Through the help of this group, she has stopped engaging in transactional sex.
Last November, Hamida attended a week-long Stepping Stone training organized by World Renew. She learned how to lead small groups to talk about love, sexual reproductive health, and cultural practices that are harmful to girls. Not only was it a fun and educational training, she said, but she enjoyed the time she had with peers. The World Renew and Word Alive staff saw her leadership potential and asked if she would be interested in leading a group of girls through the Stepping Stone curriculum. Now she is a peer mentor and leads a group of 17 girls. Because all the girls share similar experiences, they are comfortable with each other. They are able to discuss openly the challenges of being a girl and trying to support their family. In this way Hamida has been able to help other girls stop engaging in transactional sex.
By being a peer mentor, Hamida receives a stipend. The money she receives helps her provide for her family. The project also offers training in business and entrepreneurship. She hopes that this training will help her and her peers start a business so that they can earn enough money to support themselves and their families.
Please pray for the ongoing success of this project, that more girls can leave transactional sex. Please also pray that the business and entrepreneurship training will help the girls in starting businesses and learning skills and trades that can help them be more financially secure. Pray too for the village and community leaders, that they will help to do away with cultural practices that are harmful to girls and make the community and the marketplace a safe place for everyone.
World Renew Malawi