“My name is Mary. We are five children in my family, one boy and four girls. We were all born in Nairobi, Kenya since my father is a Kenyan and my mother a Tanzanian. I went through my primary education in Kenya up to standard seven then my parents relocated to Tanzania.
“My parents used to quarrel a lot and later on they separated. My father neglected us and we have never traced his whereabouts till today. My mother was unemployed and our living conditions became too hard for us since she could not afford to cater for the needs of the five children. It was at this time that she abandoned us and we were left under the care of my elder sister. We came to learn later that my mother lives in Dar es Salaam but she never cares about us anymore. At that time I dropped out of school since my sister could not afford to pay for our school fees.
“We have lived with my sister ever since our parents left us, and she had to struggle to take the responsibility of providing for our basic needs. Life was too hard for us since she did not have a permanent job and she later on got a baby. Therefore she had an added responsibility, and we all lived in a small one bedroom rented house; life did not get any better. Most of the times we failed to get food and sleep hungry and my young sisters and brother were not able to continue with school as well. It was at this point that I engaged myself in commercial sex work at the age of 13. I engaged in this work for one year before I met Shalom.
“This sex trade activity is very hard and most of the times I could only get very little money or even none since most of the clients claimed that I was too naïve for this kind of work. I don’t like this kind of activity, there are so many risks but I was pushed to do it because of the hard living conditions.
“Once I was enrolled in Shalom project for girls at risk, I stopped this activity since they gave me hope for a better life and I also got an opportunity to go to vocational training in hotel management course for one year which I believe will transform my life.
“There are still challenges faced during training, like lack of bus fare but I decided never to go back to sex trade since I want to live a better life and be a role model to other girls who have lost hope in their lives.“I am grateful to Shalom for the opportunity to further my studies and also for equipping me with other skills like entrepreneurship skill, reproductive health and also moral support. My life has become better since I stopped engaging in commercial sex activity. Shalom also helped me trace my aunty whom I live with now, since my sister could not afford to cater for all our needs. If it were not for Shalom, I could still be engaging in sex trade since I had no hope for a better life, but now they have taught me how to value my life.
“My future hopes are to get employment once I finish the course I am undertaking now so that I can help my siblings. I would also like to advance my studies; maybe do a diploma in some other field of studies. I would also love to help girls like me so that they can have a better life.”
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