Alleyways, drugs, and alcohol

“I still take alcohol, but not the drugs and I am no longer someone’s cash cow.”

From cleaning toilets and begging for something as basic as place to sleep, KZN 19-year-old sought sex work as the choice of work to turn her life around.

I used to clean toilets and it was not an easy position to be in; it is during this time when I experienced the most abuse in my life. I remember a man who used to ‘help’ us out with accommodation from time to time for sex in return.

“My life was so difficult, to the extent I did not have a place to sleep. Well, for those who refused to offer the sexual favour, they would be refused the ‘help’ and would be kicked out of the house where they were accommodated.” It was during this time that this young lady came to the realisation that in exchange for sex one can get what they need, which is not too far-fetched from sex work.

One stormy evening, she was kicked out of the safe house. Stranded on the streets she shared her pain with the next person who could listen. Little did she know the very empathetic one would take advantage of her and leave her naked on the side of the road, not only robbing her of her clothes, but the little money she had. “I was helped by security guards who were passing by, who saw me naked on the side of the road after I woke.”

I then found a safe place to work work from which is a lodge, unfortunately the lodge closed. After the closure of the lodge in which we used to work in, we found an old building where we could work. It is not a safe working space which one could refer to as a workplace, despite having to pay rent each time they tried to access the dangerous dilapidated building; with some resorting to drug usage as a coping mechanism. It is such working conditions and the constant demands to meet cash obligations that has seen most of us becoming slaves to drugs and alcohol. Since meeting Sisonke my life has improved. “Yes, I still take alcohol, but not the drugs and I am no longer someone’s cash cow.”