Manicaland Province applauds First Lady An elderly man from Watsomba expresses his displeasure at how women are dressing indecently, only wearing coats which they open exposing their bodies for prostitution purposes and abuse of drugs and alcohol during an interactive session with First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Manicaland last week.

Tendai Rupapa and Ray Bande

Herald Reporters

The mother of the nation, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa accomplished her week-long tour to Manicaland Province providing tangible empowerment projects and assisting vulnerable groups across all districts of the province.

The tour mainly focused on the elderly, the disabled, and child-headed families to whom she gave blankets, an assortment of food hampers, toiletries and clothes to ease their plight.

From one stop to the other, she would leave supplies for them and after being satisfied that the vulnerable groups had benefitted, she would carry the remaining goods to the next district for the same groups to benefit.

Widows and former ladies of the night were not left out as Amai Mnangagwa rolled out empowerment projects for them too, so that they are self-reliant.

Dr Mnangagwa who is also the country’s health ambassador, held interactive sessions with communities tackling several social issues that include prostitution, drug and substance abuse and gender based violence among many other subjects.

At Watsomba business centre in Mutasa District where she held her first programme, Amai Mnangagwa witnessed rife immoral behaviour evidenced by used condoms and disused illicit beer containers—mutoriro and tumbwa bottles strewn all over the shopping centre.

She was told cases of prostitution and drug abuse at the business centre were high.

A man passionately voices his concerns at how women in his area were defending, sanitising and promoting prostitution and also abusing drugs and alcohol during an interactive session with First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Watsomba, Manicaland last week.

The First Lady was not amused by this and said she wanted to initiate income-generating projects for the ladies of the night, adding that she would work hard to ensure they divert their energy to something dignified.

She asked if there were ladies of the night in the crowd who were willing to quit the oldest profession and start projects of their choice.

They rushed to the front, telling the mother of the nation that they wanted to start afresh and work for their families using their hands.

Despite the biting cold weather in Mutasa, some of the ladies were even wearing close-to-bare attire, miniskirts and skin tights.

Because of their dressing, some people in the crowd mocked them as they went to the First Lady, but Amai Mnangagwa applauded them for coming out in the open and expressing willingness to work hard and leave prostitution.

She then counselled those who had mocked the ladies against pulling others down before asking the former ladies of the night to write down their names and choose projects they wanted so that she could initiate for them.

Among projects they said they needed to venture into, the women mentioned cooking, chicken rearing, detergent making, sewing, baking, and farming.

Amai Mnangagwa added piggery and petroleum jelly-making projects for them.

People, among them elderly women, those living with disabilities, child-headed families and those living with albinism, among other vulnerable groups, carry home blankets, clothes, food hampers and toiletries among other things they received from First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Manicaland. — Pictures: John Manzongo

The First Lady encouraged them to form groups according to what they wanted and urged them to quit the world’s oldest profession and earn clean money by using their hands and brains.

Dr Mnangagwa said prostitution exposed women to sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, and violence.

She said it was critical for women to respect their bodies and shy away from risky behaviour.

“Thank you for coming in the open vanangu. My aim is to rehabilitate and economically empower you through various projects. As a mother, I want to walk with children who want to work, and use their hands and brains. I want you to appreciate that you are important. We want to come up with something tangible so that you quit what you were doing. Ndafara kuti mabvuma kuti manga muchikanganisa for various reasons asi ini ndoda kuti tishande tigone kuzvichengeta pamwe nemhuri dzedu,” she said.

An elderly man raised his voice against prostitution saying he had stopped visiting the business centre for fear of meeting women and young girls in the nude soliciting for clients.

“Amai even in this cold weather, you see them loitering around wearing revealing clothes while beckoning any passing male towards them. Some of them wear overcoats without anything inside. When they see a man even as old as I am, they gather around you and open their coats exposing their bodies. Unonzwa vakuti Mdara handei paseri apo tine base. Honestly, what has gotten into these young girls? My wish and prayer is for the authorities to put in place a law to end such behaviour. We thought it was only for urban areas but even in rural areas its now rife. We even have brothels at this business centre. These business people operating brothels are destroying the younger generation. I am also disappointed in business people who are also making money using minors to sell drugs who at the end of the day start using them as well and dropping out of school. They become useless in life as they are destroyed by drugs,” he said angrily.

Among the ladies, there was an 18-yr-old who told the First Lady that she got into prostitution because of peer pressure when she was still in school, and she failed.

She said her wish was to go back to school and encouraged her peers to also shun such behaviour.

The First Lady told her that through her Angel of Hope Foundation she was going to make her dream come true.

Knotburga Muchero thanked the First Lady for coming to their rescue.

“Amai gave us renewed hope and a sense of belonging. She held a heart-to-heart interactive session with us to hear our challenges and offered to empower us through income-generating projects so that we leave the oldest profession,” she said.

Another lady, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she ventured in sex work following the death of her husband.

“When my husband passed on I was 28-years-old and I had to do this because of the situation I was in. Relatives were not coming forward to assist me and my kids. I also did not have any money to start any project hence I ended up engaging in sex work which I am quitting today after 10 years in the game, thanks to our mother the First Lady vatinyurura mumadhaka. We promise to work hard and we will never disappoint her. Backwards never.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Rutendo Samundere who said she became a sex worker following a divorce.

“I want to thank Amai Mnangagwa, who has come to help us leave this profession and help us to work for ourselves to sustain our families. I have three children. The profession we were in had many challenges like sexually transmitted diseases and even death. Thank you Mhamha,” she said.

Business owners in the Watsomba area, not only added their voices to growing concerns about prostitution in the area but also are taking steps to combat the vice following the First Lady’s visit and teachings.

Muchaneta Makhuyana said: “I was into sex work not by choice. Circumstances pushed me into it after I was dumped by my husband who migrated to South Africa and never came back.

“I want to venture into the piggery and poultry projects. We do not know how best we can thank Amai Mnangagwa for the assistance she has rendered us. Words alone fail us.”

Thelma Muchisi said: “We are looking forward to productive agricultural projects that we will venture into as this was the much-needed stepping stone.

“The First Lady has given us a fishing rod. The onus is on us to do justice to her kindheartedness by producing.”

Fiona Sithole said: “We feel gratified to have been remembered by Amai. We had no clue as to what will take us from the sex work business, but here we are through Amai Mnangagwa, the Lord has remembered us.

“This will empower us and leave us independent without having to depend on anyone for survival. We want to see more and more sex workers working for their families through various income generating programmes and quit the oldest profession.”

Mr Lovemore Mandimutsira, who owns Watsomba’s most thriving bar, Mandel Leisure Centre, said: “We are grateful for the First Lady’s visit in that as a mother of the nation, she made us see the light and take our responsibilities as business persons.

“For sure, we were having young males and females flocking into in our bars and all along we did not take it seriously, but through the First Lady’s visit, we have seen the light.

“At my place, we have made a deliberate step to deny entry to any female, or even males, who appear young. We believe this will help in the fight against child prostitution and minors abusing drugs and alcohol,” he said.

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