FDID Sierra Leone Community Project Report
In a bid to address the complex health and safety needs of commercial sex workers in Sierra Leone, Foundation for Democratic Initiatives and Development (FDID-SL) a youth serving civil society organization has concluded a one day focus group community meeting at the Lumley community Centre (grass field) in Freetown on the 29th of January.
This meeting attracted well over 70 participants as well as health service providers, police officers and local community authorities. Welcoming the participants and all present, the Executive Director of FDID chief Hindowa E. Saidu applauded the acting Director of national HIV/AIDS secretariat to have been present in this meeting in spite of his busy schedule. He also encouraged all and sundry present at the meeting to take the deliberations seriously as Sierra Leone stands at the threshold of countries whose reproductive health care facilities is still a challenge.
In his opening remarks, the chairman of the meeting who also doubles as the communication and outreach officer of FDID Mr. Edward N. Blake said the hub on which every country depends for both economic and socio-political development is the youth. Mr. Blake furthered on the importance of the meeting by saying commercial sex work is a universal challenge, he said it is one of the oldest occupation and it is now being legalized in some countries but with strict laws which regulates it practice. Commercial sex work is a social challenge in Sierra Leone which serves as a conduit in the dissemination of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) its prevalence in our society poses a serious threat for the younger generation (Children) whom we are obliged to protect as a nation.
Given an overview of the project, the Program Officer Mr. Habib T. Kamara explained the increase in the incidences of abuse meted out on commercial sex workers by their clients and sometimes by even police officers who are supposed to defend the rights of this category of people. This he said is a serious concern as it does not only impede on the rights of sex workers but also undermines the dignity and respect of women in the country. He however advised the law enforcers not to take advantage of the fact that sex work is illegal in the country. He also said that the Human right of this category of people is paramount and therefore cannot be compromised. He concluded by saying that the reproductive health care of these girls and young women must be prioritize by health care providers as a means of tackling the HIV/AIDS virus in the country. Mr. Kamara warned the sex workers that intake of drug and alcohol to resist the cold at night especially along the beach areas also poses a serious health hazard to their wellbeing.
The acting Director of the national HIV/AIDS secretariat Mr. Abdul-Rahman Sesay expressed similar concern that commercial sex work is an easy way of spreading the HIV virus in any country if their reproductive healthcare is not properly addressed. He informed participants and all present at this meeting that the national HIV/AIDS secretariat is now working on a strategic plan that will address three key populations in the country namely: commercial Sex workers (CSW’s), Injecting drug users (IDU’S) and Men who have sex with men (MSM’s) as a means to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.
A representative attached to the family support unit at the Lumley police station gave their support to this initiative and vowed that the police will now run after people who will try to violate and abuse the rights of sex workers .He further stressed that any police officer caught in such violation will be severely punished by the police disciplinary committee.
Mr. Terrence Williams of the British High commission thanked the participants for coming out in their numbers to attend the meeting and he also praised the FDID team for such a good work. He finally said that the British High commission is always willing to work with any group of people in order to help in the development of Sierra Leone.
The vote of thanks was given by the councilor Mr. Nicolson who is the local political leader of that community. He pleaded with other organizations be it local or otherwise to emulate the good work that FDID is doing in communities all over the country as he rightly puts it “sex workers are part of our communities and therefore should not be treated like aliens” He also made a clarion call on the central government and other well-meaning partners to support FDID whose vision is to see an empowered and healthy youthful population in Sierra Leone devoid of drug, alcohol and other social vices.
The occasion was climaxed by the sharing and distribution of both male and female condoms by the FDID team.
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