SHE is only 14 but has already had se_x with more than 50 men.While other girls of her age are in form 2,Sarah joined the world’s oldest profession at the age of 13 in Epworth.
She only went as far as Grade 6 before dropping out of school after her grandmother who was taking care of her died in Honde Valley.
With no one to take care of her back in Honde,she decided to come to Harare for ‘green pastures’.The pastures have however been not so green for her ever since she arrived in Epworth and she found herself joining other se_x workers at a spot popularly known as ‘Pa Booster’.
She chronicles her story of how she found herself being a child prostitute,poverty being the core driver.
“My mother died when I was in Grade 2 and I have never known my father.My grandmother was taking care of me and unfortunately I had to fend for myself after her death.
“A friend I grew up with back in Honde who came for Christmas invited me over in Epworth saying I could try look for a job rather than starve to death saying I could try look for job.With no option I joined her when she travelled back after Christmas holidays and when I got here I found out that she was a se_x worker.
“She introduced me to se_x work saying that was the fastest way I could earn a living and pay rent and buy food,” says Sarah.
She struggles to hold back her tears as she tells the story of a girl who was deflowered by man she didn’t even know or love.
“I had never had se_x and my first time was with a mukorokoza who had offered $5,my friend told me to go for the offer as the rates are usually lower than that,She even said gods had smiled on me as such offers were had to come by.
“I was so afraid yet I had to offer the service since he had already paid.My friend told him to be gentle with me as this was my first time.I was shivering and didn’t know what to do,the guy had no time and he was not lenient with me.He told me not to waste his time.
“I could say he forced himself on me and because I was a vi_rgin,he didn’t want to use a co_ndom.I begged him to use one and fortunately he did. I’ve never felt so much pain,he gagged me as I screamed before ordering me to cooperate,”chronicles the teary Sarah.
She says when the man left,she thought of quitting and then remembered she had no one back in Honde.
“I bled for a week,told my friend how I could not do this anymore,she then reminded me how I needed to pay rent and put food on the table.
“I wanted to run,I was terrified,didn’t know what to do.It took about two weeks for me to get back on my feet and started working again.
“I picked myself up and was determined to make money.
Life has however not been easy,I have on several times been attacked by men who don’t want to pay.
“Recently I was stabbed on the arm as I fought a man who refused to pay.He only left me after I screamed and called for help.I have had men who have also refused to use co_ndoms saying that they had paid me more money.
Our rates are usually US$0.80 or US$1 for two.Then we have those who come with better offers such as US$5 and these are the ones who want unprotected se_x,”she adds.
Oblivious of the risk of HIV and other STIs,she says she has had unprotected se_x on several occasions willingly and unwillingly.Her major fear is falling pregnant so she is on a contraceptive pill.
“I don’t have any option my sister.I will die anyway.I only had an HIV test once when I had an STI infection.Ndakaita inonzi drop and I was in so much pain.I was afraid to go to the clinic,I thought of what the nurses would say to me.
“I was then told of another clinic in Mbare that offers friendly services for free,so that is when I got treated.Then I tested HIV negative and they told me to return again for another test three months later of which I did,”she says.
Sarah says she has tried to look for a job as a maid but it hasn’t been easy as she has no form of identification so people are reluctant to stay with her.
Sarah is one example of the rising trend in Child prostitution in the country.According to National Aids Council monitoring and evaluating director,Amon Mpofu,teenage se_x workers have led to a rise in HIV incidence arguing that these had potential to reverse the HIV gains.
“HIV incidence remains very high in adolescents with girls being the most affected.Lately we have seen an increase in adolescent se_x workers and these are very vulnerable to HIV as they are not able to negotiate for safe se_x.
“This is a huge threat to the 90-90-90 target and we need to go an extra mile to address this challenge before it escalates,”says Mpofu.Epworth legislator,Zalerah Makari says the increasing trend of child prostitutes in her constituency was worrying arguing that poverty was the major driver.
“As you have seen,I have very young girls in my constituency who have already joined se_x work.My daily headache is what I can do to take those girls out of se_x work.”
“I have already started engaging se_x workers in Epworth and I have taken time to listen to their stories.Believe me not all of them enjoy what they are doing,they would really love to lead normal lives given the dangers they face in their daily activities.
“I wish corporate organisations could help me take those girls out of the streets,maybe if they could have income generating projects that could help them earn a living.
“The HIV fight is not complete if we ignore these girls,they are a threat to HIV management,”argues Hon Makari.
According to scientists,women account for nearly 60% of adults with HIV in sub-Sahara Africa,where unprotected heterose_xual se_x is primary driver of the epidemic.
While the nation is grappling with child pr_ostitution,Sarah is one living example of an innocent girl who has been forced into prostitution by poverty.Her prayer is to get a job so that she could earn a living.
“I don’t enjoy this,I have never enjoyed it but what do I do with no form of identification which has made it worse because no one wants to employ me.”
**Name withheld to protect the girl.