Rumbidzai Mawakaringa A Sex Worker Turned Into A Change Champion

Rumbidzai Mawakaringa (Second From The Right) With a Group of Fellow Sex Workers in Gweru, 30 November 2023

One of the key success stories for our Hands Off Project is that of Rumbidzai Mawakaringa a sex worker and a change champion who was exposed to HIV/Aids in her marriage of 15 years. She had three children with her husband who later passed on due to illness. Rumbidzai confessed to an abusive husband which led to body and emotional injuries that are still healing to this day. After the death of her husband, Rumbidzai could not afford to raise her three children, she had no job, business, or source of income that she could rely on. She was also suffering discrimination from the community as they accused her of spreading the disease and even assuming that she was the one responsible for the death of her husband. The only option she had was to engage in sex work for survival. It was never easy for her to establish herself in the business as senior sex workers discriminated her, and connected her with abusive clients where in some cases she could get beaten, short-changed, some clients refusing to pay or even getting arrested. The police brutality became a norm and the streets were not friendly to her. Through all this pain she experienced, after receiving training from INERELA+ Zimbabwe and counselling from trained INERELA+ religious leaders, Rumbidzai persevered and thrived to become a prominent sex worker and change champion in Gweru. She formed a support group of sex workers where sex workers receive teachings on various key subjects like sex workers’ rights, correct ways of taking ARVs, the need for consistent HIV testing, PREP, and other sexual reproductive health issues affecting sex workers. Further to becoming a change champion Rumbidzai with the help of INERELA+ Zimbabwe managed to start a small business that is generating significant extra income to support her children and the extended family.  Through the same business together with income from sex work, Rumbidzai managed to build a four-bedroom townhouse where she is currently staying with her children. This is a great achievement that has encouraged other sex workers to emulate by saving part of the income from sex work to start businesses. 

Rumbidzai and her colleagues in the support group confessed through interviews that sex work has been a lifesaver where some attracted huge sums of money and can run their families of which the majority of the sex workers are single mothers. Rumbidzai is now a champion who stands for the rights of sex workers, fighting against decriminalisation of sex work through participating in INERELA+ Zimbabwe awareness raising workshops, campaigns, and events aimed at promoting the rights of sex workers, fighting discrimination and abuse by law enforcement agencies. She has been involved in stakeholder engagement meetings between INERELA+ Zimbabwe and the police as they try to find common ground in protecting sex workers from abuse in Zimbabwe.

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