UNAIDS support to develop income generating entrepreneurship for sex workers

L-R: Sophie Radroradro (Strumpet), Renata Ram (UNAIDS Country Director), Sesenieli Naitala, (SAN Fiji) and June White (Haus of Khameleon) Picture: SUPPLIED

The required closure of borders and introduction of nightly curfews in March, signalled the start of difficult times for sex workers living in Fiji who solely depend on this income to support their families, many of whom are young single mothers.

This week UNAIDS Fiji made a timely donation of cleaning equipment and gardening tools to support an income generating project initiated by Survival Advocacy Network Fiji (SAN Fiji) to support the needs of sex workers.

Survival Advocacy Network Fiji (SAN Fiji), is a network that focuses on the needs of Sex Workers providing HIV promotional support and advocating for sex workers’ rights, received requests from sex workers for the most basic of needs—food.

Sesenieli Naitala, Project Coordinator at SAN Fiji mentions that since March this year requests have been flooding in from their members and it is clear that without a source of income many sex workers were unable to cover the cost of daily expenses and housing.

SAN Fiji, have been exploring other means of generating income to support their members through catering, grass-cutting services and general backyard cleaning.

During these struggling times, SAN Fiji is working closely with other organizations such as STRUMPET and Haus of Khameleon to implement these income generating initiatives.

“UNAIDS is supporting SAN Fiji to develop their income generating entrepreneurships run by sex workers to be able to compensate the loss of income due to COVID-19. As with other vulnerable populations, restrictions imposed in response to this pandemic are disrupting their access to livelihoods. Adding to this, sex workers are usually disowned by family members and fail to have the standard communal safety nets. The impact of COVID-19 has left many sex workers in a desperate situation in accessing shelter and food. Having no other means of support could also put sex workers at risk of being highly exploited in return for basic food items. These risks also include increased vulnerability to violence and acquiring sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV” says Renata Ram, UNAIDS Country Director for Fiji and the Pacific.

Sex workers, like others, are facing incredible hardships during the COVID-19

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