Expanding opportunities for female sex workers with vocational training 

Blue Gate Public Health Promotion Initiative and the Zonta Club of Ibadan II, Nigeria, partnered for the Women Economic Relief Project (WERP). This project is an economic empowerment intervention with the goal of reducing the financial dependence of female sex workers living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or AIDS on sex work by diversifying their income sources through acquisition of vocational skills.

With a US$5,000 grant from Zonta International, the project included the following activities:

  • Advocacy visits: During advocacy visits in selected brothels in Ibadan Metropolis, Blue Gate Initiative officials discussed the goals to achieve, roles and responsibilities of the chairlady and manager of each brothel and, also, cooperation and support of the participants for the successful implementation of the project.
  • Medical screening services: Over a one-month screening exercise, 175 sex workers were screened for HIV and high blood pressure. Those identified to have abnormal blood pressure were referred to a health facility of their choice and the 22 individuals who were HIV seropositive were linked with a One Stop Shop through the support of the Oyo State Ministry of Health.
  • Media awareness of Petals FM, a Nigerian radio station: The Blue Gate Initiative CEO and a project officer participated in a one-hour radio program to create awareness on HIV and the importance of this project. The public was educated in the goal of this project in relation to HIV prevention and control among sex workers.
  • Vocational training: 34 female sex workers from various brothels in Ibadan completed trainings—in baking and decorating cakes, applying make-up, gele and auto-gele (traditional head-ties worn in Nigeria), and making liquid soap and disinfectants.
  • Graduation ceremony and empowerment: A graduation ceremony for the 34 sex workers who completed the vocational training was held at Zonta House in Jericho, Ibadan. They were also empowered with necessary start-up materials.

Many of the beneficiaries were committed and appreciated the intervention. Some of them promised to leave sex work and start making money with the training and start-up materials provided for them. A WhatsApp group has been created for all the beneficiaries for follow-up and sustainability of the project. Blue Gate plans to visit the brothels to monitor their progress.

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