Dear Members and Friends,
This edition will be mainly dedicated to the results Mike has achieved on the field during his mission in Africa from Sept. 26 to Oct. 10. A short paragraph will also give you, as every month, a quick update on the action in Syria, and the work in Pakistan is also mentioned.
1° Burundi: prostituting themselves because of extreme poverty, they risk prison or death
The Newsletter of last May introduced this new action carried out in Bujumbura by our partner, the association “Solidarité des femmes pour le bien-être social et le progress” (SFBLSP), which worked hard from April to the end of September. In six months, 55 sex workers were released from prison where they had been abusively detained. In addition, sensitization sessions for the militia, city peacekeepers, and police officers were organized, as these agents are often responsible for these arbitrary and violent arrests.
On September 28, SFBLSP organized a meeting for Mike with 44 sex workers in order to discuss the background of their situations, the ins and outs of these painful and degrading life paths. Most of them are Burundian but there are also Rwandan and Congolese women. The women present have one or more children. Widows, repudiated, single mothers, young people adrift, without family resources, without a support network, uprooted, without any support from the community, without a penny to their name. Some testimonies taken on the fly:
- In general, the ‘pass’ is paid with 2’000 Burundian francs, (editor’s note: that is to say CHF 0,92 or € 0,87), and it is frequent that once satisfied the customer runs away without paying anything at all.
- The average daily gain is between 5,000 and 10,000 francs (editor’s note: between CHF 2.30 and 4.60, or € 2.16 to 4.33)
- In the neighborhood, since it is known that I prostitute myself, my child is as stigmatized as I am.
- I am constantly chased away by successive landlords as soon as they learn that I am forced to sell my body. My children and I have already had to change rooms and neighborhoods four times since the beginning of the year.
- We are a worthless tool.
- We are spit on.
- To a policeman who had arrested me I had to give him 4’000 francs which he extorted from me.
- During my arrest I was raped by six policemen.
- Many clients refuse to use condoms.
- This client tore the condom on purpose to defile me.
- The heavy clients choke me without bothering, with the obese it is terrible.
- During my detention in the cell I was hit many times.
These stories are told with great dignity, calmly, without an ounce of exaggeration. These women bend under the torments of fate but maintain a remarkable decency and moral lucidity.
Among the most important conclusions of the exchange that lasted more than 3 hours: “It is good to free us from prison, but much better would be to help us change our lives! Help us to find a job worthy of the name, however modest, and even if we don’t earn more than we do now.”
It was decided that SFBLSP and Vivere should work together without delay on a complementary action to the one conducted so far.
Last month the team on site was able to assist 60 infants with nutritional supplementation: 16 new babies were added to the 44 previously followed. Including twins Mamdouh and Maya in this photo.
The country remains in a state of war, but thousands of displaced families have to leave the place or the camp where they took refuge to return to their village of origin. And there they will find only the ruins of their habitat, with no other solution than to find a new makeshift shelter in the most hazardous conditions.
3° Pakistan: actions against the death penalty and life imprisonment of minors
In Shikarpur on September 29th was held our 22nd session of sensitization of actors of the judicial and probation world, aiming at making them master the legal tools they can and must use to counter, before the courts, the extreme demands to which children (at the time of the acts of which they are accused) risk to be exposed.
The next Newsletter will come back on the follow-up of the mission carried out in R.D.Congo.
Thanking you for your attention to this work, and at your disposal for any information you may wish to receive.
With our best consideration,
The Vivere Committee