What we do
Violence, abuse, intolerance, stigma, prejudice - just some of the things these women face every day. Often they risk it all this for nothing more than 70 cents because behind every sex worker standing at a dodgy street corner is a family that is solely dependent on her.
If the root of their predicament is money, then it only makes sense to empower these women financially to stand up on their own feet so they may quit this dangerous cycle of abuse and prejudice. That’s why female sex workers are enrolled in a variety of programs and opportunities to help them become financially self-reliant and independent and rewrite their stories.
Health, social & legal counselling
The road to recovery for these girls begins with ensuring there’s no more damage. Whether it’s safer sex practices, free contraceptives, nutrition or family planning, HerStory supports its clients on a variety of health-related topics. We also refer them to other social and legal services to ease them back into society.
Peer Lead Support System
Being a sex worker often means being isolated from friends and family. This means they must rely on each other to navigate through tough times. Female sex workers entering HerStory often form smaller groups within which they provide health, emotional and educational support to each other.
Girls Vocational Training
The rehab isn’t complete till the girls can stand on their own feet. HerStory offers vocational training programs for girl-child sex workers where they may learn tailoring, dressmaking, weaving, tie-dye design and hairstyling. Over 600 girls have passed through the program since its inception.
Family and Kinship Support
The sad truth is that despite our best efforts, many of the HIV infected girls will succumb to AIDS, often leaving behind young children with no guardians. Some children may have contracted the virus at birth, making them even more vulnerable without their mothers. When members can’t care for their children, the extended HerStory network steps in to provide for them. That goes for orphans, too, who are assigned a patron to live with.
Where we work - 10x10 square feet.
The standard home size in every slum. That includes the bedroom, storage, kitchen and the living room. The toilet and bathroom is outside and is shared by other families. There is a disturbing democracy in the slums of Kenya. No matter who you are, things are just as good or bad for everyone. Nothing and no one is hidden. Life and its troubles spill out on the streets to be witnessed by one and all. Privacy is a luxury that no one can afford.
To understand the problems of the Nairobi sex workers, one must understand where they live. These slums are home to millions and each is a complex labyrinth which only the locals can navigate. There are shops, schools and hospitals but everyone comes home to exactly 10x10 square feet.
Living in such close quarters presents its own challenges for these women. To thrive in a slum requires building a network of friends and neighbours who can support each other. But sex workers, especially the ones with HIV, often face discrimination and stigma which is hard to erase in a place where nothing remains hidden.
So if poverty and HIV weren’t bad enough, they have to also face the indifference of neighbours. That indifference may even be welcome elsewhere, but in the complex slum dwellings, it could be the difference between survival and struggle.
All of HerStory Centre operations happen within these slums. We work for and with the residents. While this presents its unique challenges, our decades of experience and understanding of the inner workings of these cities-within-a-city allow us to become one of them. The trust we’ve gained over the years allows us to make a difference one incremental step at a time. And that trust has been repaid by our team, our volunteers and our patrons who tire endlessly to return dignity to a place which seems to have forsaken it.