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Tasintha sets Zambia's sex workers on a better path

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When Tasintha first approached Constance, she was skeptical but intrigued.Several days later, she decided to visit the office to find out more. She learned that Tasintha offers psychological counseling, spiritual healing, educational support, and practical trainings in a range of income-generating activities. International donors, including The Global Fund, provide anti-retroviral drugs to women living with HIV.

Constance decided to join the organization, and through it, learned how to tailor and bead necklaces. She also found solace in the organization’s weekly spiritual seminars, in which pastors read from the Bible and ask attendees to share their experiences. Most recently, Tasintha has supported her seeking a degree in information technology.

Like most women with whom Tasintha works, Constance did not stop her sex work immediately. “I won’t lie, I didn’t change the first day I came to Tasintha,” she admitted. “If I met an old client, sometimes I would go with him.”

There were some economic considerations to her decisions. “It takes six months to know tailoring,” Constance says, and during that process, she was not earning much money from her craft. By contrast, she could earn up to 500,000 kwacha ($90) a night as a sex worker, which enabled her to live well in Lusaka.

Tasintha insists that sex workers must continue living in their neighborhoods during the difficult change process. “If you take someone away to a retreat, they could revert to sex work when they return,” Ms. Phiri says. Tasintha instead asks its beneficiaries to stand up to the inevitable heckling from their neighbors and emerge more wholly transformed.

Tasintha has, over the last 20 years, learned a lot about how sex work functions in Zambia.

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