In response to HIV-AIDS pandemic, City Pentecostal Assembly Church’s social arm in Bulawayo is running a Nehemiah AIDS Project in which commercial sex workers are rehabilitated into the society. The programme seeks to reduce the number of ladies engaged in the commercial sex by offering them the alternatives of starting income-generating projects.

City Pentecostal Assembly in downtown Bulawayo.

Speaking to Relzim.org, Nehemiah Project director Mrs Gloria Green said that after realizing that Christians continued to die of HIV, the Church decided to take a stand against the pandemic.“Nehemiah Project exists to give Christ and hope to communities in Bulawayo and beyond that are affected and infected by HIV and AIDS, through empowering to meet their physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social needs.”

Mrs Green said they are currently working with more than 80 commercial sex workers, who have support groups that meet twice a month for business training, self-esteem building and the Word of God.  There are three such groups in Cowdray Park, one in Saurcestown and another at the city centre. In those support groups, the women are taught on how to start income-generating projects such as sewing, candle making, catering etc.

Mrs Green added that they also teach sex workers on the dangers of prostitution, at the same time linking them with HIV-related organisations, since most of them are living with the virus.  Nehemiah Project director explained that reintegrating sex workers into society is a long process. Their way of life is their source of livelihood. “Patience is necessary in the whole exercise.”

Among the challenges faced by sex workers, Mrs Green mentioned abuses from clients, being robbed of money during the night, injuries during police raids.

In its tenth year of operation, the  rehabilitation programme is not designed for sex workers alone but also for those women, who are contemplating to follow this way of life due to financial problems. Nehemiah Project also deals with orphans and vulnerable children through programmes such as kids clubs, where the young stars meet  and are taught life skills leadership and lectured on HIV-AIDS. The clubs are led by youths from the community.

Nehemiah Project does not only target members of the City Pentecostal Assembly but the Bulawayo community at large, with the three quarters of their clients not belonging to  this Pentecostal Church.