BHESP BLOGS

“We are in a cage because of the various traumatic experiences we endure in our lives.” Vincent, a counselor, tells us during a trauma training session. Grace, a survivor of rape, relates to this statement. Living with her grandmother who lost her sight ten years ago and a son, she has no choice but to be the breadwinner of her family. At only 21, she works hard to ensure that the family’s needs such as food, rent, education is catered for. Grace recalls the unfortunate events that happened. “It was around midnight; I was in a hurry to reach home as it was quite late. That was when I was approached by four men who forcefully grabbed me and dragged me to a house that was unfinished.


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Mercy Mutonyi is a champion of HIV prevention programming for female sex workers and vulnerable young women at Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Program. A current AVAC advocacy fellow, Mercy has years of experience working for and with female sex workers and vulnerable women in Kenya.

At IAS 2019, she took over the UNICEF HIV Twitter account and spoke at a panel on gender transformative approaches for the HIV response. Here, she discusses key messages for from this year’s conference.

What do you think are the biggest lessons coming out of IAS 2019 for programmes and policy makers?


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A constricted path, iron sheet houses, roadside food vendors are the site that greets you when you visit Kiambiu slums that borders Eastleigh suburb in Nairobi.

“Welcome to Kiambiu,” says 42-year-old Jane*, dressed in a black jacket with a smiley face, as she ushers me into her single room.

Jane, who is a peer educator at Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme {BHESP}, started sex work back in 1995 in order to make ends meet.

“Life was not a walk in the park especially in slums so I had no choice but to venture into sex work at least to put food on the table,” explains the mother of four.

Jane reckons that during her early days in sex work majority of her peers were not well conversant with HIV prevention interventions consequently many including her were infected with HIV as in Kenya sex workers have the highest HIV prevalence of 29% among the key populations.


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Dressed in a short black dress, her bag resting in her shoulder, Monicah*, 24, climbs the stairways to the fourth floor of Royal Plaza Building where BHESP Drop-In Centre is located in Roysambu, Nairobi.

“I am rushing to attend the Movie Friday as it provides an opportunity for me to learn about HIV prevention interventions and also get to share experiences with my peers,” she says while feeling breathless as she ushers into BHESP’s safe space.

Movie Friday is a day set aside for clients taking Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to come to BHESP’s safe space and watch educational movies, share their experiences and challenges while using PrEP, which when taken consistently has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to 92%.


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Girls and young women account for 67 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.

Through the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, which is funded by PEPFAR and managed by JSI, the Bar Hostess Empowerment & Support Programme (BHESP) helps vulnerable adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in Kenya to protect themselves from HIV infection, including through pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

PrEP is a daily dose of antiretroviral medication and is demonstrated to be up to 99 percent effective (depending on risk and adherence) for preventing HIV infection. Best of all, girls can self-administer it.


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BHESP PrEP Work around PrEP

BHESP PrEP Work around PrEP

Project Name; Consumer Demand Driven PrEP for adolescent Girls and Young Women in Kenya

 

Project description:

Adolescent girls and young women (referred to as consumers in this project) of 18-24 years at high risk of HIV exposure will be identified for this project. We shall identify their influencers and networks. The consumers will be approached in their hang out/ workplace areas mainly salons, watering points, hotels, colleges, social groups/sites, etc. Awareness to create demand for PrEP will be key. Young musicians and celebrities or other influencers will be recruited and trained to create awareness and hence demand through their music, tweets, blogs and interviews. We shall generate messages that communicate the most information in the least time but speak to their wants, needs and aspirations. Communication will be done by musicians and other entertainers through concerts, music/road shows and other means as suggested by the consumers.

What African sex workers want

What African sex workers want

There are basically three things sex workers desire, and hope for

Rather than looking at the ethical, religious or personal stances on sex work, it is important to first acknowledge that sex work has borne the brunt of a highly stigmatizing society, and one whose sexual conservativeness has often clouded, and looked in aghast as those who freely, consensually, and of course, engage in sex work for money, pleasure or other mutual benefits.

A basic activist definition of sex work is ‘sex work is the exchange of sex, or other sexual services, in exchange for money, gifts, or other sexual services.’ I will not delve into the historical lineage of sex work in Africa, or even map the many ways society and others, has tried to regulate, punish, rehabilitate, and even kill off the sex work profession.

Internship Opportunity

Seeking Internship? Have you studied Communication, Journalism, Mass Communication or a related field? Do you have a grasp of research and are conversant with human interest stories?

Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme {BHESP} is seeking to recruit an intern to source and write news and feature articles advocating for the rights of female sex workers in Kenya.

The intern will also be responsible for documenting the achievements and challenges of BHESP. The articles that will seek to amplify the voices of sex workers will be published on the BHESP website.

INTERESTED? Send a one-page letter of interest, CV and two examples of your writing to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Application DEADLINE: 22 JULY, 2016

Thika Man Remanded In Attempted Rape Case

A Thika court has remanded an attempted rape suspect after failing to raise a Ksh. 300,000 bond.

The Court heard that on 17th February 2016 at Thika town, John Mwangi Irungu attempted to rape and brutally assaulted Esther*, who is a sex worker.

Irungu appeared before Thika Senior Principal Magistrate Abdulqadir Lorot and pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Lorot directed that the accused be released on a Ksh. 300,000 bond with a surety of a similar amount and set 28th April 2016 as the hearing date for the case.

Esther, while narrating the full account of her torment, says Irungu approached her as a normal customer only for him to attack her when she refused to have unprotected sex.

“I told him to use a condom but he refused, fought me and tried to forcefully have sex with me. First he hit me on the head and then severally on my back,” explains the 27-year-old who came within seconds of being raped.

Esther, a mother of two, says the blindly angry Irungu endlessly beat her up while shouting at her saying she must adhere to his sex demands.

“He held my throat and began to strangle me with his bare hands. I bit his hands and that’s when he left me. I rushed to the window screaming and calling the security man,” says Esther who joined the oldest profession two years ago.

Luckily Esther says the security man together with her colleagues responded to the unrest and broke into the room and apprehended the suspect.

“He was taken to Thika police station where he was booked and put into custody,” she says.

Esther went to Thika Level 5 hospital where she received treatment for head and back injuries and was asked to come in the morning to fill the p3 form.

“Despite the pain I was experiencing, I woke up very early in the morning and went back to the hospital, filled the p3 form and took it to the police station,” she adds.

At the police station, Esther says she found Irungu’s siblings who tried to persuade her to settle the matter out of court but she vehemently refused and vowed to proceed with the case until justice is delivered.

“The police officer in charge of the case told me that Irungu’s family wanted to pay me Ksh. 50,000 but when I remembered what I had undergone I vowed to proceed with the case to its logical conclusion,” she reveals.

Esther hopes that upon completion of her case, a harsh sentence will be imposed against Irungu to act as a warning to men who have the habit of sexually assaulting sex workers.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the subject.

Get in touch

(+254) 020-260-8944

        Email: info@ bhesp.org

Kasarani Near Do's office

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