Young women and girls’ age 13 to 27 years in low resource settings in Rift Valley Kenya are forced to take up sex work for survival. These young women and girls who are then referred as Young Female Sex Workers (YFSW) are in some cases children of sex workers, orphaned girls driven to sex work/ transactional sex for survival, children from poor families, former married adolescents from failed forced marriages, former street youth, young mothers driven away from home and school for conceiving, and school drop-outs. Dropping out of school ensures a life of poverty for these girls, and many of them also wind up HIV-positive because the male-female power dynamics become even more slanted against them.” They are sexually naïve and have low knowledge levels or skills in prevention.
Many young female sex workers engage in transactional sex in places like bars and discos, and because they consider their clients to be “boyfriends,” will not use protection. Because of their low levels of education they are relatively unaware of risk factors and will not have access family planning services, and so many end up getting pregnant and have to procure back-street abortions that further complicate their sexual and reproductive health issues. Young female sex workers have limited access to quality health care services occasioned by various barriers that are organizational (i.e. issues related to health facilities and service providers attitudes towards sexually active young people especially girls), social (i.e. stigma, beliefs, ignorance and myths) and economic (i.e. user fees, cost of drugs and cost of transport to facilities).
If I win the Young Visionaries contest I will
i. Initiate an advocacy campaign that brings together young people drawn from youth serving organizations, individuals, and young female sex workers who would advocate to decision makers and the media to allow pregnant girls and young mothers to stay in school, return to their studies, and complete their schooling.
ii. Train young women and girls to be advocates/ambassadors to promote young people’s sexual and reproductive rights and on the importance of correct and consistent condom use, and to fight stigma associated to sex work.
iii. Promote dialogue through organizing discussions with parents, teachers, religious leaders and other community leaders to increase understanding and acceptance of young people’s sexual rights.
iv. Use films, diaries and video sessions to explore the barriers that young women and girls face when trying to access health services from the providers.
v. Assist young female sex workers form functioning peer groups where they would carry out peer sessions that would enable them support, follow up on each other as a team and fight stigma.
vi. Train young female sex workers in small-scale business entrepreneurship to support income generating activities (IGAs), and link the Young Female Sex Workers with Government development funds and micro-finance institutions that give loans to women and youth, so that they will have an alternative source of livelihood that will allow them to quit sex work and reduce their vulnerability.