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Monday, 04 November 2019 06:41

THE ONLY JOURNEY IS THE JOURNEY WITHIN

“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.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019 09:24

A Young Voice at the Conference

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?

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.

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%.

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.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018 10:11

My Journey

Being the first born in a family of six children meant I had to take care of all the responsibilities. When I was only 15 years old, I travelled from Western Kenya to Nairobi, in order to secure a job. Back then, we all believed that Nairobi was full of money and opportunities. I had to go, since in our village it is believed that once you reach adolescent, you are ready to get married.

Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) Sunday joined hundreds of women in Nairobi to participate in the Women’s Run 2018 as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign with calls for protection against victims of gender-based violence and shifting the blame from the survivors to the perpetrators.

From 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) donors visited Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) and commended the organization for working tirelessly towards ensuring sex workers have access to health care and are protected from violence, sexual abuse, and discrimination.

Led by AJWS Vice President for Development Margo Bloom, the 16-member team, said they were happy to learn how their commitment is making an impact in the lives of female sex workers in Kenya.

Bloom said that the visit has provided the team with an opportunity to learn about the challenges and successes BHESP is experiencing.

Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme {BHESP} Friday joined hundreds of women in Nairobi to protest the brutal murder of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno.

Ms. Otieno, a second-year student, was killed and her body dumped in a thicket in Oyugis, Homa Bay County.

Led by BHESP’s Paralegal Mary Mugure, the protesters donned white and red t-shirts crisscrossed Nairobi streets with placards criticizing the inhuman killing of Sharon and her unborn baby demanding for speedy conclusions of the investigation into the brutal murder.

Friday, 07 September 2018 08:52

Working with sex workers in Nairobi

The University of Leicester in its 2018 round of International Development Research Fund resources funded a pilot project facilitated by Professor Teela Sanders (Department of Criminology) with the NGO Bar Hostesses Empowerment and Support project (BHESP). The project is pre-work for a much larger research programme which has been sent to the GCRF for consideration which will create a skills programme for young women working in the sex industry.

The pilot project has taken just 5 months from inception to analysis and presentation, assisted by an excellent project manager in Nairobi, Raham Hassan and a team of five co-researchers from the sex work community. These women were hired and trained as researchers in May to conduct a face to face survey with sex workers.

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