It’s early Wednesday morning. Every one in Kibungo town is rushing to work. It’s a market day and Kibungo seem to be busy as many people from different parts of the district flock the market in town to buy something.
You fail to buy what you need on that day, which means you will have to wait for Saturday when the market opens again.
Everything including food has to be bought and stocked on that day and it has to be enough to take you through Saturday. Meat smoking has worked better for many families with out fringes to keep it fresh to the next market day.
Without minding much about what is taking place in town, I take a motor-cycle taxi, known locally as moto and to Ugandans as Boda boda.
Just after two kilometers I get to my destination. There I find a group of women. Some are preaching the word of God and just in a distance; another group is being trained in tailoring.
At first site they seem like any ordinary persons going about their business of the day. Talking to them reveals a lot more.
The girls are former sex workers who have done it all. Before turning to God these women had been involved in all kinds of commercial sex work.
The Anglican Church of Rwanda, Kibungo Diocese, was pivotal in helping the women to consider other career options.
Commercial sex work is illegal in Rwanda including most African countries, though there is strong advocacy for its legalization particularly in South-Africa.
The over 40 former sex workers are now organized in a co-operative society called “New Life Tugarurumuco” have been undergoing training in different skills at the diocese.
They are now being equipped with the Rwandan culture, Biblical teachings and tailoring. To illiterate members, the diocese offers lessons in reading and writing.
At least 12 of them were trained in tailoring earning about 1500Frw per week. The training which is yet to be completed takes 15 months.
The diocese with the help of PSI got them for HIV/AIDS to know their status, with about five of them infected. Many of these women have no parents.
Some have regretted as to why they opted for this kind of humiliating work which has now put them in misery but have accepted to let God into their hearts be their savior.
“I have been a commercial sex worker since 1997 but I have achieved nothing other than putting my life in jeopardy,” says 32 year-old group president Chantal Mukandutiye.
“I forgot that I was in a life I considered good but which is short,” added a converted Mukandutiye a mother of one, who is living a positive life. Mukandutiye’s parents died in the early 1980’s. She explains that she decided to become a prostitute because she had now where to survive.
“There are at times when life forces you to do something. You have no where to sleep, nothing to eat that day and the following day and that’s how I ended up in this field,” she says regretting as to why she abandoned her faith in God from the beginning.
“It’s after bad things happen to you and you start regretting,” she adds. She believes commercial sex work is largely responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“I have slept with many men before knowing that I was infected and I strongly believe that they too are infected because there are at times when we could not use a condom.” She says calling on all those still doing this kind of work to let God be their savior.
Just like Mukandutiye, a 29 year old Beatrice Mukabalisa mother of two also falls in that category. She says that she never valued her life not until she tested positive for HIV/AIDS.
“The day they told me to go for HIV testing was the day I started thinking of who I had slept with that may have infected me and what I can do when I was found infected. I never knew I was HIV positive neither did I think I would be tested negative.” She says. She says that at least now she knows her stand and she has dedicated her life to God as she lives a positive life.
But to Oliva Bazizane, she smiles a bit and thanks God for having tested negative.
“It took me like a week to believe that the results I received were mine,” says a smiling mother of two who says she was a sex worker since 2000.
“My step brothers refused to give me land so that I can cultivate. I decided to go prostitution as an alternative but I regretted for having gone in this activity the day I decided to test. I started to value my life and I really knew that was the end of me.” She adds.
“Why then don’t I serve God for he protected me during my eight years of satanic work,” she asksAccording to Hamilcar Fidele Tuyisenge the diocesan official in-charge of the programme, the whole process aims at curbing down the rate at which HIV/AIDS is spread. Starting early next year, Tuyisenge says the church will secure them money to start small income generating activities.