Ihorere Munyarwanda Organization (IMRO) with other joint health-based organizations have assured a continuous backing to sex workers based in Gasabo District in terms of advocacy, possible aid regarding family planning and HIV AIDS protection facilities.
The commitment was made during a sex workers consultation with Non-Governmental organizations namely IMRO, Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD), Health Development Initiative (HDI) and Rwanda NGOs Forum on HIV AIDS and Health Promotion (RNGOF on HIV AIDS & HP) which took place on Tuesday June 16th 2020, through a project with main goal of empowering communities and engaging stakeholders on local law enforcement and female sex workers (FSWs) to decrease stigma and discrimination among women of reproductive age by ending unsafe abortions in Rwanda.
The objective of the meeting was to increase knowledge in reducing stigma and discrimination among sex workers in Gasabo district
Speaking to the media amidst the project, different representatives from joined organizations called on sex workers to make sure their rights are well respected in the society.
Jules Mugisha, program manager of IMRO said: “Sex workers are most stigmatized and discriminated in the society. Sometimes they are forced to relocate from where they live because they are called whores and you can wonder whether they are not humans like others. That’s why we put an emphasis on sigma and discrimination.”
“Another topic we had is reproductive health. There is also family planning among sex workers which includes use of condoms as the best option. Condom is very useful as it protects against HIV AIDS or any other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and it helps during birth control at the same time. We have assured to recommend free condom kiosks for other centers like Nyarutarama cell where sex workers claimed to be needy.”
Amon Mutegaya, coordinator of the project at GLIHD said: “We were aiming to educate them on what the law states about abortion. We wanted them to know well their rights, that no one shan’t abuse them or discriminate them because of their status of being sex workers. If any one of them is abused in that way, she has to report the case to us and we start the process to protect her. GLIHD is there to help them get assured of their rights. we encourage them to come to us and we help them in having all possible means for family planning and protection against HIV AIDS”
Beneficiaries were educated about abortion: when it is criminal and when it is not, with its feasibility. In some few circumstances abortion is not a crime according to abortions law in 2012: When the conception occurred during rape; when the woman was made pregnant by her relative; when the woman was made pregnant after a forced marriage; when the pregnant woman seems to have severe problems with the conception; in case the pregnant woman is a teenager.
Attendees, peer educators among sex workers, expressed their appreciations towards the project.
“As they have promised us to provide a free condom kiosk, we are going to use them to protect ourselves from HIV AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases, as well as guiding us in birth control. I liked the way these organizations gave us their contacts that when we face any harassment or stigmatization, we will be able to see them and report our cases to them looking for protection.” Said Betty Musabyimana from Nyarutarama Sell.
Another attendee is Francine Twagiramariya, who said:“I am pleased that we are assured free condoms on a regular basis. Sometimes a client comes with only Rwf1000 to pay for the service, without a condom which finally results in unprotected sex. But by the time of free condoms I will be responsible and well prepared for my protection.”
“Another issue which will be solved is rape in young sex workers. When such a case occurs, we will immediately report the case.” She added.
According to Chantal Uwamariya, the warning about abortion will be vital.
“I liked the advice they gave us about abortion. Sometimes sex workers tend to abord as they have been made pregnant unwillingly. But for now, we have the knowledge of the feasibility of it, i.e. when it is a crime or when not.”
The session comprised 30 peer educators amongst sex workers in Gasabo District.
The entire project is targeting five districts namely Nyamasheke, Kirehe, Musanze, Huye and Gasabo.
Since 1999 IMRO and co-organizations have formed different peer educators among sex workers by their hot spots in every district, in partnership with the ministry of health and Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC)”