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Resilience

LOCKDOWN THE COUNTRY, are the words uttered by most Kenyans during this COVID-19 crisis. However, many are yet to ask themselves; what about those who depend on movement for a living? Those who work casually and earn enough for only that day? Those girls who encounter violence within their homes?

How will they avoid the violence when they are confined in the same walls as their perpetrator? How will they be able to seek help if those who offer it are on lockdown? A curfew has already being set by the government; Bars have being closed until further notice. As a country we have been told; wash your hands, stay at home as a necessity of flattening the curve but have we put into consideration that single mother of three with no fridge? Not enough food to sustain her till the pandemic ends? With rent that is due end month? She is left with no choice but to step out of her house. Sex workers are most affected by the measures that have being put in place. Bars are also regular spots for them to carry out their work but with them closed they are unable to their job. A few have adhered to the measures but most cannot give up as it is their only way acquiring their earnings. The aftermath of this is them working in dark alleys, from their houses, exposing them even more to the virus. “Most of our hotspots were bars and now the government has ordered that they be closed by 7pm. I mostly get my clients after 10pm. This is a really big blow for us as sex workers” says jane*, a sex worker. When asked about her opinion on staying at home, she replies, “sisi kama sex workers tunaambiwa tukae kwa nyumba tukule nini?”(We are being asked to stay at home. How will we get money for food?) “I have a son, i recently offered a friend shelter at my house as she looks for a job that can sustain her. Work was going well as I was able to provide. However, with this Corona virus, I no longer know what to do. Work is low.” Mercy* adds. The coronavirus has affected workplaces across the country, especially those who work in casual work and the gig economy. Normally, most workplaces have the option of one taking leave while others have opted to close down but still get paid. This however is not the case for sex workers. With social distancing insisted upon by the government, sex workers are feeling the stark economic impacts of COVID-19. The number of violence cases reported is on the rise. Sex workers being physically abused in those dark alleys, girls being harassed at their own homes; left with no choice but to stay silent. Within this month of March, Bar Hostess has received violence cases ranging from 200 happening to sex workers. BHESP has chosen to stand strong with sex workers by not closing down the clinics. While still adhering to the measures put such as hand washing, BHESP continues to provide services both clinical and legal to sex workers as a way of curbing the rampant violence happening. Despite the challenges caused by COVID-19, RESILIENT is what BHESP chooses to be.

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