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Latest stories from IPPF

Spotlight

A selection of stories from across the Federation

Humanitarian response team, Fiji.
Story

In pictures: Humanitarian photographers share their experiences of storytelling in the field

IPPF’s localized approach to humanitarian emergencies is led by our Member Associations' response teams and whenever possible, we deploy local photographers.
Pretty Lynn, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Little Mermaids Bureau project, at the LMB office in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 21 May 2017

A graduate in need turns to sex work

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I am Pretty Lynn, aged 25. I am a sex worker but I went to university. I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Tourism in 2013. But now, during the day I’m sleeping and during the night I’m working. That is how my day goes every day. I got into sex work through friends. Okay it is not good but I am earning.  I tried to get a job when I graduated. I have been applying since I graduated in 2013. I’m still applying but I’m not getting anywhere. You know to get jobs in Uganda; you have to know someone there and no one knows me there. To be a sex worker is like a curse. People look at you like, I don’t know, as someone that has no use in society. People look at you in a bad way. They even don’t consider why you are selling. They just see you as the worst thing that can happen in the society. So it is not comfortable, it is really hard but we try and survive. The fact sex working is illegal means you have to hide yourself when you are selling so that police cannot take you. And then you get diseases, men don’t want to pay. When the police come and take us, sometimes they even use us and don’t pay. So it is really hard. They want a free service. Like if they come and take you and pay that would be fair. But they say it is illegal to sell yourself. But they still use you yet they are saying it is illegal. You can’t report the police because there is no evidence.  Abortion and unwanted pregnancies are really common because men don’t want to use condoms and female condoms are really rare and they are expensive. Though at times we get female condoms from Lady Marmaid’s Bureau (LMB) because there are so many of us they can’t keep on giving you them all the time. At times when we get pregnant we use local methods. You can go and use local herbs but it is not safe. One time I used local herbs and I was successful. Then the other time I used Omo washing powder and tea leaves but it was really hard for me. I almost died. I had a friend who died last year from this. But the good thing is that LMB taught us about safe abortion. I have had a safe abortion too. There are some tabs they are called Miso (misoprostol). It costs about fifty thousand shillings (£10 pounds or $20.) It is a lot of money. But if I’m working and I know I’m pregnant, I can say, "this week I’m working for my safe abortion". So if I’m working for twenty thousand, by the end of the week I will have the money. It is expensive compared to Omo at five hundred shillings but that is risky. So if I say I will work this whole week for Miso (misoprostol) it is better. But I'm working and I'm not eating. A project like this one from Lady Mermaid's can help young girls and women. But to take us from sex work, it would really be hard. They would not have enough money to cater for all of us. So what they have to do is to teach us how to protect ourselves, how to defend ourselves. Safe abortion yes. They will just have to sensitise us more about our lives, protection, female condoms and all that. I don't have a boyfriend but maybe when I get money and leave this job I will. But for now, no man would like a woman who sells. No man will bear the wife selling herself. And that will happen only if I get funds, settle somewhere else and become responsible woman. I don’t want this job. I don’t want to be in this business of sex work all the time. I want be married, with my children happily, not selling myself. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Pretty Lynn, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Little Mermaids Bureau project, at the LMB office in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 25 September 2022

A graduate in need turns to sex work

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I am Pretty Lynn, aged 25. I am a sex worker but I went to university. I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Tourism in 2013. But now, during the day I’m sleeping and during the night I’m working. That is how my day goes every day. I got into sex work through friends. Okay it is not good but I am earning.  I tried to get a job when I graduated. I have been applying since I graduated in 2013. I’m still applying but I’m not getting anywhere. You know to get jobs in Uganda; you have to know someone there and no one knows me there. To be a sex worker is like a curse. People look at you like, I don’t know, as someone that has no use in society. People look at you in a bad way. They even don’t consider why you are selling. They just see you as the worst thing that can happen in the society. So it is not comfortable, it is really hard but we try and survive. The fact sex working is illegal means you have to hide yourself when you are selling so that police cannot take you. And then you get diseases, men don’t want to pay. When the police come and take us, sometimes they even use us and don’t pay. So it is really hard. They want a free service. Like if they come and take you and pay that would be fair. But they say it is illegal to sell yourself. But they still use you yet they are saying it is illegal. You can’t report the police because there is no evidence.  Abortion and unwanted pregnancies are really common because men don’t want to use condoms and female condoms are really rare and they are expensive. Though at times we get female condoms from Lady Marmaid’s Bureau (LMB) because there are so many of us they can’t keep on giving you them all the time. At times when we get pregnant we use local methods. You can go and use local herbs but it is not safe. One time I used local herbs and I was successful. Then the other time I used Omo washing powder and tea leaves but it was really hard for me. I almost died. I had a friend who died last year from this. But the good thing is that LMB taught us about safe abortion. I have had a safe abortion too. There are some tabs they are called Miso (misoprostol). It costs about fifty thousand shillings (£10 pounds or $20.) It is a lot of money. But if I’m working and I know I’m pregnant, I can say, "this week I’m working for my safe abortion". So if I’m working for twenty thousand, by the end of the week I will have the money. It is expensive compared to Omo at five hundred shillings but that is risky. So if I say I will work this whole week for Miso (misoprostol) it is better. But I'm working and I'm not eating. A project like this one from Lady Mermaid's can help young girls and women. But to take us from sex work, it would really be hard. They would not have enough money to cater for all of us. So what they have to do is to teach us how to protect ourselves, how to defend ourselves. Safe abortion yes. They will just have to sensitise us more about our lives, protection, female condoms and all that. I don't have a boyfriend but maybe when I get money and leave this job I will. But for now, no man would like a woman who sells. No man will bear the wife selling herself. And that will happen only if I get funds, settle somewhere else and become responsible woman. I don’t want this job. I don’t want to be in this business of sex work all the time. I want be married, with my children happily, not selling myself. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

A volunteer for IPPF's grassroots safe abortion project in Uganda
story

| 20 May 2017

Tackling taboos about abortion

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Volunteers for Development Association Uganda (VODA). Teachers and community volunteers provide support for young people in schools. They are critical in reshaping the social norms and stigma surrounding teen pregnancies. For many young girls, an unwanted pregnancy can limit their education and significantly restrict their life options. In Uganda, teachers are now helping to provide counselling for girls on contraception and safe abortion. Prior to VODA working with schools to provide teachers with training, the rate of deaths from unsafe abortion was significantly high. This was even the case in primary schools. Now the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies has dropped and girls are more aware of their sexual and reproductive health. I’m Deborah. I’m 27-years-old and I'm a teacher as well as being a community volunteer with VODA Uganda. There is a problem with unsafe abortion and teenage pregnancies in this area. Young girls have been getting pregnant and some of them have been dropping out of school. Some have even died because of unsafe abortions. When VODA came in, they taught us about teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortion. So we came in to teach young people in the villages so that they can be aware of these issues. Many girls secretly use injectable contraceptives after being told to do so by their parents. When these parents realise that their daughters are sexually active, they fear that they could get pregnant before they complete school. They do it secretly because they fear stigma. They do it that way to avoid rumours that may circulate if they know that one’s daughter was taken for family planning while she is still at school. Many people in our community think that a teenager who is on contraceptives is spoilt. When I had just come to this area, incidents of unsafe abortion were high. But when I began working here and the girls came to know about me, I began counselling them about safe sex, contraceptives and condoms. I told them that if you think you cannot have protected sex, then you need to use contraceptives. But we also warned them against sexually transmitted infections. Using contraception has reduced the number of girls engaging in unsafe abortion. There are different local methods used to abort. Some of them would get complications that needed medical attention after trying these methods. Some would also secretly try to go to health centres after the abortion had gone wrongly or they had even nearly died. Now some of those that have unwanted pregnancies do approach me and I counsel them. In the past, if one talked about abortion or unwanted pregnancies, I would harshly judge her saying that she wanted it. But having become a volunteer with VODA I have learned sometimes the pregnancies are due to defilement or rape, so I came to understand that not all those that get pregnant want to have a child.  Sometimes abortion is inevitable. For example, when a girl has been raped by her father, uncle, brothers or close relatives. How would a girl carry that baby? It is very important to educate young people about unsafe abortion, especially when they have reached that stage when they can get pregnant. That will help them to prevent having unwanted pregnancies and also to avoid unsafe abortion. It is important to give young girls contraceptives because some will have premarital sex. So such girls must have contraceptives if they are to avoid getting pregnant. I am Mily and I am 38-years-old. I am a volunteer for VODA Uganda and a teacher at a primary school in Kasawo. I have been teaching here for eight years. Before VODA was here, there were a lot of school dropouts from girls. They were getting unwanted pregnancies whereby they were forced to leave school. There was no one to counsel them. They were using local medicines for unsafe abortion. But when VODA came in they started to advise about unsafe abortion. We are working together with doctors and nurses from various hospitals so girls could get good care.   VODA workers approached us and explained how it could help our children to stay in school. Then we had a workshop and our head teacher selected who would manage this. Before VODA came in unsafe abortion was rampant. Many of the girls were dying. Here at this school we had a girl in P4 - we were not even expecting that girl could be pregnant. Unfortunately, we heard about it when the girl was already dead. She was trying to have an unsafe abortion.  Before VODA came, there was no sexuality education or counselling to do with STIs. That is why our children were dying because they feared to tell their parents. We thought that pregnant girls should leave school without further assistance. But as a volunteer, I thank VODA because now I know that that girls can be helped and they can continue with their studies. I am Frida and I'm 18-years-old. I am a peer counsellor at school and have counselled many girls about unsafe abortion. I came to know about VODA on a careers day at school and by attending training workshops on unsafe abortion. At our school, I’m very well-known as a youth counsellor. I help other girls who are sexually active with unwanted pregnancies. The training I received from VODA has given me self-confidence. Before, I couldn’t stand in public. But now I can stand in the presence of even one thousand people and I can talk. I’m not shy anymore. The problems are that girls can't access services like post-abortion care and family planning, like the pill. Girls are poor. Some services need money yet some girls don’t have money. They are getting pregnant because they have less information about unprotected sex and they are sexually active. To help them there needs to be places where they can find such services. From my training with VODA I now want to be a social worker so that I can work with people. I have realised that I can handle people well. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

A volunteer for IPPF's grassroots safe abortion project in Uganda
story

| 25 September 2022

Tackling taboos about abortion

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Volunteers for Development Association Uganda (VODA). Teachers and community volunteers provide support for young people in schools. They are critical in reshaping the social norms and stigma surrounding teen pregnancies. For many young girls, an unwanted pregnancy can limit their education and significantly restrict their life options. In Uganda, teachers are now helping to provide counselling for girls on contraception and safe abortion. Prior to VODA working with schools to provide teachers with training, the rate of deaths from unsafe abortion was significantly high. This was even the case in primary schools. Now the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies has dropped and girls are more aware of their sexual and reproductive health. I’m Deborah. I’m 27-years-old and I'm a teacher as well as being a community volunteer with VODA Uganda. There is a problem with unsafe abortion and teenage pregnancies in this area. Young girls have been getting pregnant and some of them have been dropping out of school. Some have even died because of unsafe abortions. When VODA came in, they taught us about teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortion. So we came in to teach young people in the villages so that they can be aware of these issues. Many girls secretly use injectable contraceptives after being told to do so by their parents. When these parents realise that their daughters are sexually active, they fear that they could get pregnant before they complete school. They do it secretly because they fear stigma. They do it that way to avoid rumours that may circulate if they know that one’s daughter was taken for family planning while she is still at school. Many people in our community think that a teenager who is on contraceptives is spoilt. When I had just come to this area, incidents of unsafe abortion were high. But when I began working here and the girls came to know about me, I began counselling them about safe sex, contraceptives and condoms. I told them that if you think you cannot have protected sex, then you need to use contraceptives. But we also warned them against sexually transmitted infections. Using contraception has reduced the number of girls engaging in unsafe abortion. There are different local methods used to abort. Some of them would get complications that needed medical attention after trying these methods. Some would also secretly try to go to health centres after the abortion had gone wrongly or they had even nearly died. Now some of those that have unwanted pregnancies do approach me and I counsel them. In the past, if one talked about abortion or unwanted pregnancies, I would harshly judge her saying that she wanted it. But having become a volunteer with VODA I have learned sometimes the pregnancies are due to defilement or rape, so I came to understand that not all those that get pregnant want to have a child.  Sometimes abortion is inevitable. For example, when a girl has been raped by her father, uncle, brothers or close relatives. How would a girl carry that baby? It is very important to educate young people about unsafe abortion, especially when they have reached that stage when they can get pregnant. That will help them to prevent having unwanted pregnancies and also to avoid unsafe abortion. It is important to give young girls contraceptives because some will have premarital sex. So such girls must have contraceptives if they are to avoid getting pregnant. I am Mily and I am 38-years-old. I am a volunteer for VODA Uganda and a teacher at a primary school in Kasawo. I have been teaching here for eight years. Before VODA was here, there were a lot of school dropouts from girls. They were getting unwanted pregnancies whereby they were forced to leave school. There was no one to counsel them. They were using local medicines for unsafe abortion. But when VODA came in they started to advise about unsafe abortion. We are working together with doctors and nurses from various hospitals so girls could get good care.   VODA workers approached us and explained how it could help our children to stay in school. Then we had a workshop and our head teacher selected who would manage this. Before VODA came in unsafe abortion was rampant. Many of the girls were dying. Here at this school we had a girl in P4 - we were not even expecting that girl could be pregnant. Unfortunately, we heard about it when the girl was already dead. She was trying to have an unsafe abortion.  Before VODA came, there was no sexuality education or counselling to do with STIs. That is why our children were dying because they feared to tell their parents. We thought that pregnant girls should leave school without further assistance. But as a volunteer, I thank VODA because now I know that that girls can be helped and they can continue with their studies. I am Frida and I'm 18-years-old. I am a peer counsellor at school and have counselled many girls about unsafe abortion. I came to know about VODA on a careers day at school and by attending training workshops on unsafe abortion. At our school, I’m very well-known as a youth counsellor. I help other girls who are sexually active with unwanted pregnancies. The training I received from VODA has given me self-confidence. Before, I couldn’t stand in public. But now I can stand in the presence of even one thousand people and I can talk. I’m not shy anymore. The problems are that girls can't access services like post-abortion care and family planning, like the pill. Girls are poor. Some services need money yet some girls don’t have money. They are getting pregnant because they have less information about unprotected sex and they are sexually active. To help them there needs to be places where they can find such services. From my training with VODA I now want to be a social worker so that I can work with people. I have realised that I can handle people well. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Joan, a former sex worker and beneficiary of the Lady Mermaid's Bureau project, photographed in a hotel in central Kampala.
story

| 20 May 2017

Brighter future for former sex worker and her daughter

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Joan and I am 35. I was a sex worker for five years but now I have a fridge and I sell fruits and juice. When the people from Lady Mermaid's Bureau (LMB) met us, they told us to come and make crafts, which I'd never done before. Then Ali from the LMB told me to get a small fridge to start off. I’m making juice now. Now business is fine and I get money for my daughter. She is at university. Her father was not helpful so I had to get money to look after myself and my daughter. Sex workers go through a lot of difficulties. People don’t like you. Sometimes they chase you. Some catch you by force (rape). The police are not good. They chase us and others force us to have sex with them. They don’t give you money. They have sex for nothing. They are not good at all. I kept myself safe from pregnancy while working as a sex worker. I went to the clinic, I got the pills. Now I’m on injections. It has worked very well for me, they are good. When you go to the clinic, they tell you what to do but some people use unsafe abortion practices, like herbs and people are dying from doing that. My neighbour went through unsafe abortion with herbs. She died. My life has completely changed. It changed a lot and I don’t want to see anyone on the street. The street is not good. There are many girls on the street but they are not in a good condition. Ali (a programme officer at LMB) is very good friend. He is like a mother. He told me 'let’s go and buy the refrigerator'. It was 300 shillings (approximately $85). He gave me counselling and helped me to get off of the streets.  Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Joan, a former sex worker and beneficiary of the Lady Mermaid's Bureau project, photographed in a hotel in central Kampala.
story

| 25 September 2022

Brighter future for former sex worker and her daughter

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Joan and I am 35. I was a sex worker for five years but now I have a fridge and I sell fruits and juice. When the people from Lady Mermaid's Bureau (LMB) met us, they told us to come and make crafts, which I'd never done before. Then Ali from the LMB told me to get a small fridge to start off. I’m making juice now. Now business is fine and I get money for my daughter. She is at university. Her father was not helpful so I had to get money to look after myself and my daughter. Sex workers go through a lot of difficulties. People don’t like you. Sometimes they chase you. Some catch you by force (rape). The police are not good. They chase us and others force us to have sex with them. They don’t give you money. They have sex for nothing. They are not good at all. I kept myself safe from pregnancy while working as a sex worker. I went to the clinic, I got the pills. Now I’m on injections. It has worked very well for me, they are good. When you go to the clinic, they tell you what to do but some people use unsafe abortion practices, like herbs and people are dying from doing that. My neighbour went through unsafe abortion with herbs. She died. My life has completely changed. It changed a lot and I don’t want to see anyone on the street. The street is not good. There are many girls on the street but they are not in a good condition. Ali (a programme officer at LMB) is very good friend. He is like a mother. He told me 'let’s go and buy the refrigerator'. It was 300 shillings (approximately $85). He gave me counselling and helped me to get off of the streets.  Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Deborah, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Lady Mermaid's Bureau project, at night in central Kampala.
story

| 20 May 2017

Helping jailed sex workers to be treated with dignity

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I’m called Debora and I’m 20-years-old. This is my fourth year as a sex worker. From it I earn some living. I get some money to pay rent, I have a six-year-old kid. I pay for his school fees because the dad abandoned me. Now I am earning and living as an individual.   Sometimes you can go to the street and you don’t get any clients. So the next day you have to move on with life. So apart from sex work I wash people's clothes to get some money. However it is also not enough. I began this job after I had lost my parents.Then I had gone to my brother’s place but his wife didn't like me so my brother chased me away. I got a man; I stayed with him for some time. But when I got pregnant, he just ran away from me. And since then, I don’t know where he is and I don’t have any of his contacts. So I found life hard. That is why I decided to come, after a friend of mine briefed me about sex working. It is not really easy to be a sex worker because it is illegal and there are some harsh conditions. You don’t fit in to society because others see you as someone who can be neglected. And also another problem, these guys or the clients…. after you negotiate the payments he just beats you or runs away. You cannot report him anywhere because sex work is illegal here. And they arrest us. I have been arrested four times. The police abuse us and at times they also take advantage of us. I remember one time, he arrested me, then reaching there, he said if you want me to release you, then you also have to give me sex. I had to because I had no option by then. Lady Mermaid’s Bureau has helped us a lot because they get us some lawyers to get us out of jail. I will never forget that moment because they were taking us to prison not even to the police station. They brought us some doctors who taught us how we can prevent STIs, they gave us free condoms, they have also helped us with safe abortions after rape. Unsafe abortion is too much. I remember one time I got pregnant but I couldn’t have it because I already have a child I’m taking care of and my earning is not much. So I decided to just abort locally with some herbs that you can get. I tried it, actually I was going to die. They didn’t work. I was totally disturbed and I was rushed to the hospital. I was bleeding a lot.  Safe abortion is so good, I wish they can sensitise everyone in our society even if you are not a sex worker. You can get pregnant when it is not the right time. But safe abortion is so safe just like the name sounds. The biggest challenge for women who do sex work is the law because we do it illegally. Everyone has her own way of getting the clients. Others have our numbers. If not you can come on the street. To be a sex worker is so hard. It is so hard. We just pray that one day they hear us because we didn’t want to do it but it is also a job and you get some money of course. Lady Mermaid’s has helped us because they really comfort us. You just go there anytime you have a problem. If you need condoms they give you them, if you need advice then counsellors can help you. If it wasn’t there, we would have no freedom of speech. Society will abandon you. You cannot go anywhere and say that you feel free that you are sex worker. There is no society you can be free with apart from Lady Mermaid's Bureau because they treat us like we are normal. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Deborah, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Lady Mermaid's Bureau project, at night in central Kampala.
story

| 25 September 2022

Helping jailed sex workers to be treated with dignity

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I’m called Debora and I’m 20-years-old. This is my fourth year as a sex worker. From it I earn some living. I get some money to pay rent, I have a six-year-old kid. I pay for his school fees because the dad abandoned me. Now I am earning and living as an individual.   Sometimes you can go to the street and you don’t get any clients. So the next day you have to move on with life. So apart from sex work I wash people's clothes to get some money. However it is also not enough. I began this job after I had lost my parents.Then I had gone to my brother’s place but his wife didn't like me so my brother chased me away. I got a man; I stayed with him for some time. But when I got pregnant, he just ran away from me. And since then, I don’t know where he is and I don’t have any of his contacts. So I found life hard. That is why I decided to come, after a friend of mine briefed me about sex working. It is not really easy to be a sex worker because it is illegal and there are some harsh conditions. You don’t fit in to society because others see you as someone who can be neglected. And also another problem, these guys or the clients…. after you negotiate the payments he just beats you or runs away. You cannot report him anywhere because sex work is illegal here. And they arrest us. I have been arrested four times. The police abuse us and at times they also take advantage of us. I remember one time, he arrested me, then reaching there, he said if you want me to release you, then you also have to give me sex. I had to because I had no option by then. Lady Mermaid’s Bureau has helped us a lot because they get us some lawyers to get us out of jail. I will never forget that moment because they were taking us to prison not even to the police station. They brought us some doctors who taught us how we can prevent STIs, they gave us free condoms, they have also helped us with safe abortions after rape. Unsafe abortion is too much. I remember one time I got pregnant but I couldn’t have it because I already have a child I’m taking care of and my earning is not much. So I decided to just abort locally with some herbs that you can get. I tried it, actually I was going to die. They didn’t work. I was totally disturbed and I was rushed to the hospital. I was bleeding a lot.  Safe abortion is so good, I wish they can sensitise everyone in our society even if you are not a sex worker. You can get pregnant when it is not the right time. But safe abortion is so safe just like the name sounds. The biggest challenge for women who do sex work is the law because we do it illegally. Everyone has her own way of getting the clients. Others have our numbers. If not you can come on the street. To be a sex worker is so hard. It is so hard. We just pray that one day they hear us because we didn’t want to do it but it is also a job and you get some money of course. Lady Mermaid’s has helped us because they really comfort us. You just go there anytime you have a problem. If you need condoms they give you them, if you need advice then counsellors can help you. If it wasn’t there, we would have no freedom of speech. Society will abandon you. You cannot go anywhere and say that you feel free that you are sex worker. There is no society you can be free with apart from Lady Mermaid's Bureau because they treat us like we are normal. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Ali, a programme officer with Little Mermaids Bureau in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 20 May 2017

From garbage collector to sexual health counsellor

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Ali. I have worked with Lady Mermaid’s Bureau (LMB) for eight years as a programme officer and I am also a consultant on safe abortion. LMB was founded by three sex workers in 2002. It is the oldest sex worker’s organisation in Eastern Africa. When it started, LMB arranged for sex workers to meet Parliament and expose all the problems that sex workers have to face. They originally thought the government would only take two years to legalise sex work. That was obviously not the case and as advisers we said it would take a lot of time talking about their sexual health and other problems. Before I became an adviser I was working with a garbage collection company. I was the night supervisor and I had a lot of friends who were sex workers. They would talk with me and tell me how they wanted a street where they would not be arrested. These were the workers who originally started Lady Mermaid’s Bureau. First it was for fellow sex workers to help them when they were arrested by the police. Then I came in to advise them in the set up and do what I could do to help them reach their goals.  There were many problems. Talking about sex work was a taboo. When I became part of LMB nobody was talking about sex workers. The women’s movement was against sex workers. They thought it was exploitative to all women. So we had to engage most of them in our programmes until they came on board to realise sex workers rights. When the sex workers went to Parliament in 2004, that meeting acted to provide an amnesty to the women. Now they can take cases to the police. Previously, no sex worker would go to the police to report a client because she would just end up being arrested. Abortion among sex workers is still a very major issue that has to be looked at by the government. Many women are very vulnerable to becoming sex workers. They are poor, from slums and a lot of them are students. They face a lot of violence: rape, the police themselves use them (ask for sex) and then there are clients who rape the women. So there are a lot of incidences of violence that turn into unwanted pregnancies. Most of the women will resort to aborting if they face such violence because they don’t know the father of the child. If you go to a private clinic it can cost 120,000 to 250,000 Uganda shillings. Also, service providers will not tell the sex workers that there is a cheaper way of doing abortions. They try to escalate the costs. Sex workers aren't told about how they can take misoprostol from home and then they can follow up onto the clinic. So the service is perceived to be high although it could be cheaper to abort. We have seen women who have not been able to access safe abortion. We have a young lady here who tried to abort unsafely because it was too expensive for her to have a safe abortion. Again she was afraid that she would be arrested, she was afraid that nurses at the clinic would stigmatise her. So she tried to abort the local way but it didn’t work and now she has a child. Countrywide the problem is lack of contraceptives: you find that some women have aborted two or three times, and then there's the problem of not counselling on contraceptive use and the lack of contraceptives in private and public health institutions. In many cases the men don’t want to use the male condoms and there aren't many female condoms on the market and they are extremely expensive. It is really very important for women to have information about contraceptives and can access contraceptive methods. These days we have sex workers ranging from 14 year to 38 years. Most of these young girls have been trafficked from the villages. Some come from the villages where they are promised some work in the city and they end up into sex work. Some are refugees who have come from Congo, others have come from Rwanda and others have come from South Sudan. We also have sex workers who are students from the colleges. And then we have young ladies who have grown up in slum areas of Kawempe, Katanag in Makerere, Natete who have been orphaned and left to fend for their families. There are the older ladies who work on the streets to sell tomatoes. They give out their numbers to clients or men who can raise them on call. And another group of older women work from their homes in slum areas where pimps take customers to them. There are also some high-class sex workers from 20-32 years old. They work in posh shops in Kampala where they give out business cards. There are sex workers who have pimps that use social media like Facebook and badoo to expose the women. Men just call the pimp who will bring the sex worker. Getting contraceptives to girls under 14 is also a big issue which parliament needs to look at. Now a lot of young ladies find themselves in distress. Most of them come from the villages and most of them have lost parents. They enter into sex work from 14 and they find themselves becoming pregnant. Since contraceptives are restricted to these ages, it is  increasing the problem rather than solving it. There is need for counselling on contraceptives at least from ages of 14 and then there is need for a contraceptive referral centre. Another issue is a lot of rumours that contraceptives damage the body of the women and that it changes the hormones, causing infertility. So these women in the end don’t talk about these problems when they visit health centres and the doctor will not follow up. The women end up concluding that every contraceptive is damaging to their bodies. This project started to have an impact in its second and the third year. Sex workers had learnt about safe services, and how to tell a health institution that they had had a miscarriage. The majority of the feedback has been positive. Abortion should be legalised. The legislators should learn about the stories and they can get a precise picture of the level of deaths caused by unsafe abortion. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Ali, a programme officer with Little Mermaids Bureau in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 25 September 2022

From garbage collector to sexual health counsellor

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Ali. I have worked with Lady Mermaid’s Bureau (LMB) for eight years as a programme officer and I am also a consultant on safe abortion. LMB was founded by three sex workers in 2002. It is the oldest sex worker’s organisation in Eastern Africa. When it started, LMB arranged for sex workers to meet Parliament and expose all the problems that sex workers have to face. They originally thought the government would only take two years to legalise sex work. That was obviously not the case and as advisers we said it would take a lot of time talking about their sexual health and other problems. Before I became an adviser I was working with a garbage collection company. I was the night supervisor and I had a lot of friends who were sex workers. They would talk with me and tell me how they wanted a street where they would not be arrested. These were the workers who originally started Lady Mermaid’s Bureau. First it was for fellow sex workers to help them when they were arrested by the police. Then I came in to advise them in the set up and do what I could do to help them reach their goals.  There were many problems. Talking about sex work was a taboo. When I became part of LMB nobody was talking about sex workers. The women’s movement was against sex workers. They thought it was exploitative to all women. So we had to engage most of them in our programmes until they came on board to realise sex workers rights. When the sex workers went to Parliament in 2004, that meeting acted to provide an amnesty to the women. Now they can take cases to the police. Previously, no sex worker would go to the police to report a client because she would just end up being arrested. Abortion among sex workers is still a very major issue that has to be looked at by the government. Many women are very vulnerable to becoming sex workers. They are poor, from slums and a lot of them are students. They face a lot of violence: rape, the police themselves use them (ask for sex) and then there are clients who rape the women. So there are a lot of incidences of violence that turn into unwanted pregnancies. Most of the women will resort to aborting if they face such violence because they don’t know the father of the child. If you go to a private clinic it can cost 120,000 to 250,000 Uganda shillings. Also, service providers will not tell the sex workers that there is a cheaper way of doing abortions. They try to escalate the costs. Sex workers aren't told about how they can take misoprostol from home and then they can follow up onto the clinic. So the service is perceived to be high although it could be cheaper to abort. We have seen women who have not been able to access safe abortion. We have a young lady here who tried to abort unsafely because it was too expensive for her to have a safe abortion. Again she was afraid that she would be arrested, she was afraid that nurses at the clinic would stigmatise her. So she tried to abort the local way but it didn’t work and now she has a child. Countrywide the problem is lack of contraceptives: you find that some women have aborted two or three times, and then there's the problem of not counselling on contraceptive use and the lack of contraceptives in private and public health institutions. In many cases the men don’t want to use the male condoms and there aren't many female condoms on the market and they are extremely expensive. It is really very important for women to have information about contraceptives and can access contraceptive methods. These days we have sex workers ranging from 14 year to 38 years. Most of these young girls have been trafficked from the villages. Some come from the villages where they are promised some work in the city and they end up into sex work. Some are refugees who have come from Congo, others have come from Rwanda and others have come from South Sudan. We also have sex workers who are students from the colleges. And then we have young ladies who have grown up in slum areas of Kawempe, Katanag in Makerere, Natete who have been orphaned and left to fend for their families. There are the older ladies who work on the streets to sell tomatoes. They give out their numbers to clients or men who can raise them on call. And another group of older women work from their homes in slum areas where pimps take customers to them. There are also some high-class sex workers from 20-32 years old. They work in posh shops in Kampala where they give out business cards. There are sex workers who have pimps that use social media like Facebook and badoo to expose the women. Men just call the pimp who will bring the sex worker. Getting contraceptives to girls under 14 is also a big issue which parliament needs to look at. Now a lot of young ladies find themselves in distress. Most of them come from the villages and most of them have lost parents. They enter into sex work from 14 and they find themselves becoming pregnant. Since contraceptives are restricted to these ages, it is  increasing the problem rather than solving it. There is need for counselling on contraceptives at least from ages of 14 and then there is need for a contraceptive referral centre. Another issue is a lot of rumours that contraceptives damage the body of the women and that it changes the hormones, causing infertility. So these women in the end don’t talk about these problems when they visit health centres and the doctor will not follow up. The women end up concluding that every contraceptive is damaging to their bodies. This project started to have an impact in its second and the third year. Sex workers had learnt about safe services, and how to tell a health institution that they had had a miscarriage. The majority of the feedback has been positive. Abortion should be legalised. The legislators should learn about the stories and they can get a precise picture of the level of deaths caused by unsafe abortion. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Masitula, a sex-worker and beneficiary of the SAAF funded project by Lady Mermaid's Bureau at her home in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 20 May 2017

Life-changing post-abortion care for sex workers

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Masitula. I’m a single mother of two sons and I'm a sex worker. I live in Nansana Wakiso district, it is near Kampala. Every evening I travel 10 kilometres to Natete, a Kampala city suburb where I am a sex worker. I got pregnant after a client refused to wear a condom. I attempted to abort using some unsafe abortion practices but I was unsuccessful. I now have a two-month old baby whose father I do not know. My eldest son is seven years, he is in primary school. The other one is two months. I became a sex worker after a friend advised me that this job can provide me with some income. My husband left me six years ago for another woman when my eldest was only one. He doesn’t give me a single penny for taking care of his son. I used to be a teacher but the income is little. So I have been a sex worker for six years. There are many problems for sex workers here. One is with the police. The police catch us, take our money and sometimes force us to have sex. The other problem is that those men who buy us, some of them don’t pay. They just use us and they don’t pay. It affects me because when you go to work and you don’t get any income, it is bad. They use you for free. And I don’t have anyone to take care of my kids. So sometimes I don’t work I just stay at home because no one will take care of my kids. I live only with my children. I don’t have anyone else. Sometimes I have to take my baby with me and if I get a job, then I give him to my friend until I finish. It is difficult with such a little baby but there is nothing I can do. I don’t even know the father. He just forced me. He said that he will not put on a condom. So that is why I tried to abort with herbs, but it didn't work.They caused me a lot of pain and I was about to die. I didn’t go for a safe abortion because with this government of ours, it is not easy to go to the hospital and tell them that I want to abort. You just go and tell them that you want medicine for ulcers. But Lady Mermaid's Bureau, supported by SAAF, has helped me and other sex workers. When you call them they come immediately. When you are sick they take you to hospital. In everything they are good. When I get some problems, I just go and tell them. They do what other people can’t do. It has changed my life because I now have a friend. They are my friends. I take them as part of my family because I don’t have any family. My father died, I don’t have a mother and my husband left me. They are my family now. Abortion should be legal and also sex work because it is a job. We don’t want to do it. It's just because we don’t have anything else and that is why we do it. So the government should also take us as human beings. No one treats us as human beings. And to prevent women from having unsafe abortions the government should provide people with jobs and factories to work in. So that they don't have to do sex work because it affects these girls, and some of them are like me. We don’t have jobs, you go and look for a job, you don’t find the job and you just find yourself doing this sex working job instead. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Masitula, a sex-worker and beneficiary of the SAAF funded project by Lady Mermaid's Bureau at her home in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 25 September 2022

Life-changing post-abortion care for sex workers

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Masitula. I’m a single mother of two sons and I'm a sex worker. I live in Nansana Wakiso district, it is near Kampala. Every evening I travel 10 kilometres to Natete, a Kampala city suburb where I am a sex worker. I got pregnant after a client refused to wear a condom. I attempted to abort using some unsafe abortion practices but I was unsuccessful. I now have a two-month old baby whose father I do not know. My eldest son is seven years, he is in primary school. The other one is two months. I became a sex worker after a friend advised me that this job can provide me with some income. My husband left me six years ago for another woman when my eldest was only one. He doesn’t give me a single penny for taking care of his son. I used to be a teacher but the income is little. So I have been a sex worker for six years. There are many problems for sex workers here. One is with the police. The police catch us, take our money and sometimes force us to have sex. The other problem is that those men who buy us, some of them don’t pay. They just use us and they don’t pay. It affects me because when you go to work and you don’t get any income, it is bad. They use you for free. And I don’t have anyone to take care of my kids. So sometimes I don’t work I just stay at home because no one will take care of my kids. I live only with my children. I don’t have anyone else. Sometimes I have to take my baby with me and if I get a job, then I give him to my friend until I finish. It is difficult with such a little baby but there is nothing I can do. I don’t even know the father. He just forced me. He said that he will not put on a condom. So that is why I tried to abort with herbs, but it didn't work.They caused me a lot of pain and I was about to die. I didn’t go for a safe abortion because with this government of ours, it is not easy to go to the hospital and tell them that I want to abort. You just go and tell them that you want medicine for ulcers. But Lady Mermaid's Bureau, supported by SAAF, has helped me and other sex workers. When you call them they come immediately. When you are sick they take you to hospital. In everything they are good. When I get some problems, I just go and tell them. They do what other people can’t do. It has changed my life because I now have a friend. They are my friends. I take them as part of my family because I don’t have any family. My father died, I don’t have a mother and my husband left me. They are my family now. Abortion should be legal and also sex work because it is a job. We don’t want to do it. It's just because we don’t have anything else and that is why we do it. So the government should also take us as human beings. No one treats us as human beings. And to prevent women from having unsafe abortions the government should provide people with jobs and factories to work in. So that they don't have to do sex work because it affects these girls, and some of them are like me. We don’t have jobs, you go and look for a job, you don’t find the job and you just find yourself doing this sex working job instead. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Pretty Lynn, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Little Mermaids Bureau project, at the LMB office in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 21 May 2017

A graduate in need turns to sex work

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I am Pretty Lynn, aged 25. I am a sex worker but I went to university. I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Tourism in 2013. But now, during the day I’m sleeping and during the night I’m working. That is how my day goes every day. I got into sex work through friends. Okay it is not good but I am earning.  I tried to get a job when I graduated. I have been applying since I graduated in 2013. I’m still applying but I’m not getting anywhere. You know to get jobs in Uganda; you have to know someone there and no one knows me there. To be a sex worker is like a curse. People look at you like, I don’t know, as someone that has no use in society. People look at you in a bad way. They even don’t consider why you are selling. They just see you as the worst thing that can happen in the society. So it is not comfortable, it is really hard but we try and survive. The fact sex working is illegal means you have to hide yourself when you are selling so that police cannot take you. And then you get diseases, men don’t want to pay. When the police come and take us, sometimes they even use us and don’t pay. So it is really hard. They want a free service. Like if they come and take you and pay that would be fair. But they say it is illegal to sell yourself. But they still use you yet they are saying it is illegal. You can’t report the police because there is no evidence.  Abortion and unwanted pregnancies are really common because men don’t want to use condoms and female condoms are really rare and they are expensive. Though at times we get female condoms from Lady Marmaid’s Bureau (LMB) because there are so many of us they can’t keep on giving you them all the time. At times when we get pregnant we use local methods. You can go and use local herbs but it is not safe. One time I used local herbs and I was successful. Then the other time I used Omo washing powder and tea leaves but it was really hard for me. I almost died. I had a friend who died last year from this. But the good thing is that LMB taught us about safe abortion. I have had a safe abortion too. There are some tabs they are called Miso (misoprostol). It costs about fifty thousand shillings (£10 pounds or $20.) It is a lot of money. But if I’m working and I know I’m pregnant, I can say, "this week I’m working for my safe abortion". So if I’m working for twenty thousand, by the end of the week I will have the money. It is expensive compared to Omo at five hundred shillings but that is risky. So if I say I will work this whole week for Miso (misoprostol) it is better. But I'm working and I'm not eating. A project like this one from Lady Mermaid's can help young girls and women. But to take us from sex work, it would really be hard. They would not have enough money to cater for all of us. So what they have to do is to teach us how to protect ourselves, how to defend ourselves. Safe abortion yes. They will just have to sensitise us more about our lives, protection, female condoms and all that. I don't have a boyfriend but maybe when I get money and leave this job I will. But for now, no man would like a woman who sells. No man will bear the wife selling herself. And that will happen only if I get funds, settle somewhere else and become responsible woman. I don’t want this job. I don’t want to be in this business of sex work all the time. I want be married, with my children happily, not selling myself. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Pretty Lynn, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Little Mermaids Bureau project, at the LMB office in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 25 September 2022

A graduate in need turns to sex work

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I am Pretty Lynn, aged 25. I am a sex worker but I went to university. I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Tourism in 2013. But now, during the day I’m sleeping and during the night I’m working. That is how my day goes every day. I got into sex work through friends. Okay it is not good but I am earning.  I tried to get a job when I graduated. I have been applying since I graduated in 2013. I’m still applying but I’m not getting anywhere. You know to get jobs in Uganda; you have to know someone there and no one knows me there. To be a sex worker is like a curse. People look at you like, I don’t know, as someone that has no use in society. People look at you in a bad way. They even don’t consider why you are selling. They just see you as the worst thing that can happen in the society. So it is not comfortable, it is really hard but we try and survive. The fact sex working is illegal means you have to hide yourself when you are selling so that police cannot take you. And then you get diseases, men don’t want to pay. When the police come and take us, sometimes they even use us and don’t pay. So it is really hard. They want a free service. Like if they come and take you and pay that would be fair. But they say it is illegal to sell yourself. But they still use you yet they are saying it is illegal. You can’t report the police because there is no evidence.  Abortion and unwanted pregnancies are really common because men don’t want to use condoms and female condoms are really rare and they are expensive. Though at times we get female condoms from Lady Marmaid’s Bureau (LMB) because there are so many of us they can’t keep on giving you them all the time. At times when we get pregnant we use local methods. You can go and use local herbs but it is not safe. One time I used local herbs and I was successful. Then the other time I used Omo washing powder and tea leaves but it was really hard for me. I almost died. I had a friend who died last year from this. But the good thing is that LMB taught us about safe abortion. I have had a safe abortion too. There are some tabs they are called Miso (misoprostol). It costs about fifty thousand shillings (£10 pounds or $20.) It is a lot of money. But if I’m working and I know I’m pregnant, I can say, "this week I’m working for my safe abortion". So if I’m working for twenty thousand, by the end of the week I will have the money. It is expensive compared to Omo at five hundred shillings but that is risky. So if I say I will work this whole week for Miso (misoprostol) it is better. But I'm working and I'm not eating. A project like this one from Lady Mermaid's can help young girls and women. But to take us from sex work, it would really be hard. They would not have enough money to cater for all of us. So what they have to do is to teach us how to protect ourselves, how to defend ourselves. Safe abortion yes. They will just have to sensitise us more about our lives, protection, female condoms and all that. I don't have a boyfriend but maybe when I get money and leave this job I will. But for now, no man would like a woman who sells. No man will bear the wife selling herself. And that will happen only if I get funds, settle somewhere else and become responsible woman. I don’t want this job. I don’t want to be in this business of sex work all the time. I want be married, with my children happily, not selling myself. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

A volunteer for IPPF's grassroots safe abortion project in Uganda
story

| 20 May 2017

Tackling taboos about abortion

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Volunteers for Development Association Uganda (VODA). Teachers and community volunteers provide support for young people in schools. They are critical in reshaping the social norms and stigma surrounding teen pregnancies. For many young girls, an unwanted pregnancy can limit their education and significantly restrict their life options. In Uganda, teachers are now helping to provide counselling for girls on contraception and safe abortion. Prior to VODA working with schools to provide teachers with training, the rate of deaths from unsafe abortion was significantly high. This was even the case in primary schools. Now the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies has dropped and girls are more aware of their sexual and reproductive health. I’m Deborah. I’m 27-years-old and I'm a teacher as well as being a community volunteer with VODA Uganda. There is a problem with unsafe abortion and teenage pregnancies in this area. Young girls have been getting pregnant and some of them have been dropping out of school. Some have even died because of unsafe abortions. When VODA came in, they taught us about teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortion. So we came in to teach young people in the villages so that they can be aware of these issues. Many girls secretly use injectable contraceptives after being told to do so by their parents. When these parents realise that their daughters are sexually active, they fear that they could get pregnant before they complete school. They do it secretly because they fear stigma. They do it that way to avoid rumours that may circulate if they know that one’s daughter was taken for family planning while she is still at school. Many people in our community think that a teenager who is on contraceptives is spoilt. When I had just come to this area, incidents of unsafe abortion were high. But when I began working here and the girls came to know about me, I began counselling them about safe sex, contraceptives and condoms. I told them that if you think you cannot have protected sex, then you need to use contraceptives. But we also warned them against sexually transmitted infections. Using contraception has reduced the number of girls engaging in unsafe abortion. There are different local methods used to abort. Some of them would get complications that needed medical attention after trying these methods. Some would also secretly try to go to health centres after the abortion had gone wrongly or they had even nearly died. Now some of those that have unwanted pregnancies do approach me and I counsel them. In the past, if one talked about abortion or unwanted pregnancies, I would harshly judge her saying that she wanted it. But having become a volunteer with VODA I have learned sometimes the pregnancies are due to defilement or rape, so I came to understand that not all those that get pregnant want to have a child.  Sometimes abortion is inevitable. For example, when a girl has been raped by her father, uncle, brothers or close relatives. How would a girl carry that baby? It is very important to educate young people about unsafe abortion, especially when they have reached that stage when they can get pregnant. That will help them to prevent having unwanted pregnancies and also to avoid unsafe abortion. It is important to give young girls contraceptives because some will have premarital sex. So such girls must have contraceptives if they are to avoid getting pregnant. I am Mily and I am 38-years-old. I am a volunteer for VODA Uganda and a teacher at a primary school in Kasawo. I have been teaching here for eight years. Before VODA was here, there were a lot of school dropouts from girls. They were getting unwanted pregnancies whereby they were forced to leave school. There was no one to counsel them. They were using local medicines for unsafe abortion. But when VODA came in they started to advise about unsafe abortion. We are working together with doctors and nurses from various hospitals so girls could get good care.   VODA workers approached us and explained how it could help our children to stay in school. Then we had a workshop and our head teacher selected who would manage this. Before VODA came in unsafe abortion was rampant. Many of the girls were dying. Here at this school we had a girl in P4 - we were not even expecting that girl could be pregnant. Unfortunately, we heard about it when the girl was already dead. She was trying to have an unsafe abortion.  Before VODA came, there was no sexuality education or counselling to do with STIs. That is why our children were dying because they feared to tell their parents. We thought that pregnant girls should leave school without further assistance. But as a volunteer, I thank VODA because now I know that that girls can be helped and they can continue with their studies. I am Frida and I'm 18-years-old. I am a peer counsellor at school and have counselled many girls about unsafe abortion. I came to know about VODA on a careers day at school and by attending training workshops on unsafe abortion. At our school, I’m very well-known as a youth counsellor. I help other girls who are sexually active with unwanted pregnancies. The training I received from VODA has given me self-confidence. Before, I couldn’t stand in public. But now I can stand in the presence of even one thousand people and I can talk. I’m not shy anymore. The problems are that girls can't access services like post-abortion care and family planning, like the pill. Girls are poor. Some services need money yet some girls don’t have money. They are getting pregnant because they have less information about unprotected sex and they are sexually active. To help them there needs to be places where they can find such services. From my training with VODA I now want to be a social worker so that I can work with people. I have realised that I can handle people well. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

A volunteer for IPPF's grassroots safe abortion project in Uganda
story

| 25 September 2022

Tackling taboos about abortion

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Volunteers for Development Association Uganda (VODA). Teachers and community volunteers provide support for young people in schools. They are critical in reshaping the social norms and stigma surrounding teen pregnancies. For many young girls, an unwanted pregnancy can limit their education and significantly restrict their life options. In Uganda, teachers are now helping to provide counselling for girls on contraception and safe abortion. Prior to VODA working with schools to provide teachers with training, the rate of deaths from unsafe abortion was significantly high. This was even the case in primary schools. Now the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies has dropped and girls are more aware of their sexual and reproductive health. I’m Deborah. I’m 27-years-old and I'm a teacher as well as being a community volunteer with VODA Uganda. There is a problem with unsafe abortion and teenage pregnancies in this area. Young girls have been getting pregnant and some of them have been dropping out of school. Some have even died because of unsafe abortions. When VODA came in, they taught us about teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortion. So we came in to teach young people in the villages so that they can be aware of these issues. Many girls secretly use injectable contraceptives after being told to do so by their parents. When these parents realise that their daughters are sexually active, they fear that they could get pregnant before they complete school. They do it secretly because they fear stigma. They do it that way to avoid rumours that may circulate if they know that one’s daughter was taken for family planning while she is still at school. Many people in our community think that a teenager who is on contraceptives is spoilt. When I had just come to this area, incidents of unsafe abortion were high. But when I began working here and the girls came to know about me, I began counselling them about safe sex, contraceptives and condoms. I told them that if you think you cannot have protected sex, then you need to use contraceptives. But we also warned them against sexually transmitted infections. Using contraception has reduced the number of girls engaging in unsafe abortion. There are different local methods used to abort. Some of them would get complications that needed medical attention after trying these methods. Some would also secretly try to go to health centres after the abortion had gone wrongly or they had even nearly died. Now some of those that have unwanted pregnancies do approach me and I counsel them. In the past, if one talked about abortion or unwanted pregnancies, I would harshly judge her saying that she wanted it. But having become a volunteer with VODA I have learned sometimes the pregnancies are due to defilement or rape, so I came to understand that not all those that get pregnant want to have a child.  Sometimes abortion is inevitable. For example, when a girl has been raped by her father, uncle, brothers or close relatives. How would a girl carry that baby? It is very important to educate young people about unsafe abortion, especially when they have reached that stage when they can get pregnant. That will help them to prevent having unwanted pregnancies and also to avoid unsafe abortion. It is important to give young girls contraceptives because some will have premarital sex. So such girls must have contraceptives if they are to avoid getting pregnant. I am Mily and I am 38-years-old. I am a volunteer for VODA Uganda and a teacher at a primary school in Kasawo. I have been teaching here for eight years. Before VODA was here, there were a lot of school dropouts from girls. They were getting unwanted pregnancies whereby they were forced to leave school. There was no one to counsel them. They were using local medicines for unsafe abortion. But when VODA came in they started to advise about unsafe abortion. We are working together with doctors and nurses from various hospitals so girls could get good care.   VODA workers approached us and explained how it could help our children to stay in school. Then we had a workshop and our head teacher selected who would manage this. Before VODA came in unsafe abortion was rampant. Many of the girls were dying. Here at this school we had a girl in P4 - we were not even expecting that girl could be pregnant. Unfortunately, we heard about it when the girl was already dead. She was trying to have an unsafe abortion.  Before VODA came, there was no sexuality education or counselling to do with STIs. That is why our children were dying because they feared to tell their parents. We thought that pregnant girls should leave school without further assistance. But as a volunteer, I thank VODA because now I know that that girls can be helped and they can continue with their studies. I am Frida and I'm 18-years-old. I am a peer counsellor at school and have counselled many girls about unsafe abortion. I came to know about VODA on a careers day at school and by attending training workshops on unsafe abortion. At our school, I’m very well-known as a youth counsellor. I help other girls who are sexually active with unwanted pregnancies. The training I received from VODA has given me self-confidence. Before, I couldn’t stand in public. But now I can stand in the presence of even one thousand people and I can talk. I’m not shy anymore. The problems are that girls can't access services like post-abortion care and family planning, like the pill. Girls are poor. Some services need money yet some girls don’t have money. They are getting pregnant because they have less information about unprotected sex and they are sexually active. To help them there needs to be places where they can find such services. From my training with VODA I now want to be a social worker so that I can work with people. I have realised that I can handle people well. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Joan, a former sex worker and beneficiary of the Lady Mermaid's Bureau project, photographed in a hotel in central Kampala.
story

| 20 May 2017

Brighter future for former sex worker and her daughter

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Joan and I am 35. I was a sex worker for five years but now I have a fridge and I sell fruits and juice. When the people from Lady Mermaid's Bureau (LMB) met us, they told us to come and make crafts, which I'd never done before. Then Ali from the LMB told me to get a small fridge to start off. I’m making juice now. Now business is fine and I get money for my daughter. She is at university. Her father was not helpful so I had to get money to look after myself and my daughter. Sex workers go through a lot of difficulties. People don’t like you. Sometimes they chase you. Some catch you by force (rape). The police are not good. They chase us and others force us to have sex with them. They don’t give you money. They have sex for nothing. They are not good at all. I kept myself safe from pregnancy while working as a sex worker. I went to the clinic, I got the pills. Now I’m on injections. It has worked very well for me, they are good. When you go to the clinic, they tell you what to do but some people use unsafe abortion practices, like herbs and people are dying from doing that. My neighbour went through unsafe abortion with herbs. She died. My life has completely changed. It changed a lot and I don’t want to see anyone on the street. The street is not good. There are many girls on the street but they are not in a good condition. Ali (a programme officer at LMB) is very good friend. He is like a mother. He told me 'let’s go and buy the refrigerator'. It was 300 shillings (approximately $85). He gave me counselling and helped me to get off of the streets.  Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Joan, a former sex worker and beneficiary of the Lady Mermaid's Bureau project, photographed in a hotel in central Kampala.
story

| 25 September 2022

Brighter future for former sex worker and her daughter

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Joan and I am 35. I was a sex worker for five years but now I have a fridge and I sell fruits and juice. When the people from Lady Mermaid's Bureau (LMB) met us, they told us to come and make crafts, which I'd never done before. Then Ali from the LMB told me to get a small fridge to start off. I’m making juice now. Now business is fine and I get money for my daughter. She is at university. Her father was not helpful so I had to get money to look after myself and my daughter. Sex workers go through a lot of difficulties. People don’t like you. Sometimes they chase you. Some catch you by force (rape). The police are not good. They chase us and others force us to have sex with them. They don’t give you money. They have sex for nothing. They are not good at all. I kept myself safe from pregnancy while working as a sex worker. I went to the clinic, I got the pills. Now I’m on injections. It has worked very well for me, they are good. When you go to the clinic, they tell you what to do but some people use unsafe abortion practices, like herbs and people are dying from doing that. My neighbour went through unsafe abortion with herbs. She died. My life has completely changed. It changed a lot and I don’t want to see anyone on the street. The street is not good. There are many girls on the street but they are not in a good condition. Ali (a programme officer at LMB) is very good friend. He is like a mother. He told me 'let’s go and buy the refrigerator'. It was 300 shillings (approximately $85). He gave me counselling and helped me to get off of the streets.  Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Deborah, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Lady Mermaid's Bureau project, at night in central Kampala.
story

| 20 May 2017

Helping jailed sex workers to be treated with dignity

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I’m called Debora and I’m 20-years-old. This is my fourth year as a sex worker. From it I earn some living. I get some money to pay rent, I have a six-year-old kid. I pay for his school fees because the dad abandoned me. Now I am earning and living as an individual.   Sometimes you can go to the street and you don’t get any clients. So the next day you have to move on with life. So apart from sex work I wash people's clothes to get some money. However it is also not enough. I began this job after I had lost my parents.Then I had gone to my brother’s place but his wife didn't like me so my brother chased me away. I got a man; I stayed with him for some time. But when I got pregnant, he just ran away from me. And since then, I don’t know where he is and I don’t have any of his contacts. So I found life hard. That is why I decided to come, after a friend of mine briefed me about sex working. It is not really easy to be a sex worker because it is illegal and there are some harsh conditions. You don’t fit in to society because others see you as someone who can be neglected. And also another problem, these guys or the clients…. after you negotiate the payments he just beats you or runs away. You cannot report him anywhere because sex work is illegal here. And they arrest us. I have been arrested four times. The police abuse us and at times they also take advantage of us. I remember one time, he arrested me, then reaching there, he said if you want me to release you, then you also have to give me sex. I had to because I had no option by then. Lady Mermaid’s Bureau has helped us a lot because they get us some lawyers to get us out of jail. I will never forget that moment because they were taking us to prison not even to the police station. They brought us some doctors who taught us how we can prevent STIs, they gave us free condoms, they have also helped us with safe abortions after rape. Unsafe abortion is too much. I remember one time I got pregnant but I couldn’t have it because I already have a child I’m taking care of and my earning is not much. So I decided to just abort locally with some herbs that you can get. I tried it, actually I was going to die. They didn’t work. I was totally disturbed and I was rushed to the hospital. I was bleeding a lot.  Safe abortion is so good, I wish they can sensitise everyone in our society even if you are not a sex worker. You can get pregnant when it is not the right time. But safe abortion is so safe just like the name sounds. The biggest challenge for women who do sex work is the law because we do it illegally. Everyone has her own way of getting the clients. Others have our numbers. If not you can come on the street. To be a sex worker is so hard. It is so hard. We just pray that one day they hear us because we didn’t want to do it but it is also a job and you get some money of course. Lady Mermaid’s has helped us because they really comfort us. You just go there anytime you have a problem. If you need condoms they give you them, if you need advice then counsellors can help you. If it wasn’t there, we would have no freedom of speech. Society will abandon you. You cannot go anywhere and say that you feel free that you are sex worker. There is no society you can be free with apart from Lady Mermaid's Bureau because they treat us like we are normal. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Deborah, a sex worker and beneficiary of the Lady Mermaid's Bureau project, at night in central Kampala.
story

| 25 September 2022

Helping jailed sex workers to be treated with dignity

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. I’m called Debora and I’m 20-years-old. This is my fourth year as a sex worker. From it I earn some living. I get some money to pay rent, I have a six-year-old kid. I pay for his school fees because the dad abandoned me. Now I am earning and living as an individual.   Sometimes you can go to the street and you don’t get any clients. So the next day you have to move on with life. So apart from sex work I wash people's clothes to get some money. However it is also not enough. I began this job after I had lost my parents.Then I had gone to my brother’s place but his wife didn't like me so my brother chased me away. I got a man; I stayed with him for some time. But when I got pregnant, he just ran away from me. And since then, I don’t know where he is and I don’t have any of his contacts. So I found life hard. That is why I decided to come, after a friend of mine briefed me about sex working. It is not really easy to be a sex worker because it is illegal and there are some harsh conditions. You don’t fit in to society because others see you as someone who can be neglected. And also another problem, these guys or the clients…. after you negotiate the payments he just beats you or runs away. You cannot report him anywhere because sex work is illegal here. And they arrest us. I have been arrested four times. The police abuse us and at times they also take advantage of us. I remember one time, he arrested me, then reaching there, he said if you want me to release you, then you also have to give me sex. I had to because I had no option by then. Lady Mermaid’s Bureau has helped us a lot because they get us some lawyers to get us out of jail. I will never forget that moment because they were taking us to prison not even to the police station. They brought us some doctors who taught us how we can prevent STIs, they gave us free condoms, they have also helped us with safe abortions after rape. Unsafe abortion is too much. I remember one time I got pregnant but I couldn’t have it because I already have a child I’m taking care of and my earning is not much. So I decided to just abort locally with some herbs that you can get. I tried it, actually I was going to die. They didn’t work. I was totally disturbed and I was rushed to the hospital. I was bleeding a lot.  Safe abortion is so good, I wish they can sensitise everyone in our society even if you are not a sex worker. You can get pregnant when it is not the right time. But safe abortion is so safe just like the name sounds. The biggest challenge for women who do sex work is the law because we do it illegally. Everyone has her own way of getting the clients. Others have our numbers. If not you can come on the street. To be a sex worker is so hard. It is so hard. We just pray that one day they hear us because we didn’t want to do it but it is also a job and you get some money of course. Lady Mermaid’s has helped us because they really comfort us. You just go there anytime you have a problem. If you need condoms they give you them, if you need advice then counsellors can help you. If it wasn’t there, we would have no freedom of speech. Society will abandon you. You cannot go anywhere and say that you feel free that you are sex worker. There is no society you can be free with apart from Lady Mermaid's Bureau because they treat us like we are normal. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Ali, a programme officer with Little Mermaids Bureau in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 20 May 2017

From garbage collector to sexual health counsellor

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Ali. I have worked with Lady Mermaid’s Bureau (LMB) for eight years as a programme officer and I am also a consultant on safe abortion. LMB was founded by three sex workers in 2002. It is the oldest sex worker’s organisation in Eastern Africa. When it started, LMB arranged for sex workers to meet Parliament and expose all the problems that sex workers have to face. They originally thought the government would only take two years to legalise sex work. That was obviously not the case and as advisers we said it would take a lot of time talking about their sexual health and other problems. Before I became an adviser I was working with a garbage collection company. I was the night supervisor and I had a lot of friends who were sex workers. They would talk with me and tell me how they wanted a street where they would not be arrested. These were the workers who originally started Lady Mermaid’s Bureau. First it was for fellow sex workers to help them when they were arrested by the police. Then I came in to advise them in the set up and do what I could do to help them reach their goals.  There were many problems. Talking about sex work was a taboo. When I became part of LMB nobody was talking about sex workers. The women’s movement was against sex workers. They thought it was exploitative to all women. So we had to engage most of them in our programmes until they came on board to realise sex workers rights. When the sex workers went to Parliament in 2004, that meeting acted to provide an amnesty to the women. Now they can take cases to the police. Previously, no sex worker would go to the police to report a client because she would just end up being arrested. Abortion among sex workers is still a very major issue that has to be looked at by the government. Many women are very vulnerable to becoming sex workers. They are poor, from slums and a lot of them are students. They face a lot of violence: rape, the police themselves use them (ask for sex) and then there are clients who rape the women. So there are a lot of incidences of violence that turn into unwanted pregnancies. Most of the women will resort to aborting if they face such violence because they don’t know the father of the child. If you go to a private clinic it can cost 120,000 to 250,000 Uganda shillings. Also, service providers will not tell the sex workers that there is a cheaper way of doing abortions. They try to escalate the costs. Sex workers aren't told about how they can take misoprostol from home and then they can follow up onto the clinic. So the service is perceived to be high although it could be cheaper to abort. We have seen women who have not been able to access safe abortion. We have a young lady here who tried to abort unsafely because it was too expensive for her to have a safe abortion. Again she was afraid that she would be arrested, she was afraid that nurses at the clinic would stigmatise her. So she tried to abort the local way but it didn’t work and now she has a child. Countrywide the problem is lack of contraceptives: you find that some women have aborted two or three times, and then there's the problem of not counselling on contraceptive use and the lack of contraceptives in private and public health institutions. In many cases the men don’t want to use the male condoms and there aren't many female condoms on the market and they are extremely expensive. It is really very important for women to have information about contraceptives and can access contraceptive methods. These days we have sex workers ranging from 14 year to 38 years. Most of these young girls have been trafficked from the villages. Some come from the villages where they are promised some work in the city and they end up into sex work. Some are refugees who have come from Congo, others have come from Rwanda and others have come from South Sudan. We also have sex workers who are students from the colleges. And then we have young ladies who have grown up in slum areas of Kawempe, Katanag in Makerere, Natete who have been orphaned and left to fend for their families. There are the older ladies who work on the streets to sell tomatoes. They give out their numbers to clients or men who can raise them on call. And another group of older women work from their homes in slum areas where pimps take customers to them. There are also some high-class sex workers from 20-32 years old. They work in posh shops in Kampala where they give out business cards. There are sex workers who have pimps that use social media like Facebook and badoo to expose the women. Men just call the pimp who will bring the sex worker. Getting contraceptives to girls under 14 is also a big issue which parliament needs to look at. Now a lot of young ladies find themselves in distress. Most of them come from the villages and most of them have lost parents. They enter into sex work from 14 and they find themselves becoming pregnant. Since contraceptives are restricted to these ages, it is  increasing the problem rather than solving it. There is need for counselling on contraceptives at least from ages of 14 and then there is need for a contraceptive referral centre. Another issue is a lot of rumours that contraceptives damage the body of the women and that it changes the hormones, causing infertility. So these women in the end don’t talk about these problems when they visit health centres and the doctor will not follow up. The women end up concluding that every contraceptive is damaging to their bodies. This project started to have an impact in its second and the third year. Sex workers had learnt about safe services, and how to tell a health institution that they had had a miscarriage. The majority of the feedback has been positive. Abortion should be legalised. The legislators should learn about the stories and they can get a precise picture of the level of deaths caused by unsafe abortion. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Ali, a programme officer with Little Mermaids Bureau in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 25 September 2022

From garbage collector to sexual health counsellor

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Ali. I have worked with Lady Mermaid’s Bureau (LMB) for eight years as a programme officer and I am also a consultant on safe abortion. LMB was founded by three sex workers in 2002. It is the oldest sex worker’s organisation in Eastern Africa. When it started, LMB arranged for sex workers to meet Parliament and expose all the problems that sex workers have to face. They originally thought the government would only take two years to legalise sex work. That was obviously not the case and as advisers we said it would take a lot of time talking about their sexual health and other problems. Before I became an adviser I was working with a garbage collection company. I was the night supervisor and I had a lot of friends who were sex workers. They would talk with me and tell me how they wanted a street where they would not be arrested. These were the workers who originally started Lady Mermaid’s Bureau. First it was for fellow sex workers to help them when they were arrested by the police. Then I came in to advise them in the set up and do what I could do to help them reach their goals.  There were many problems. Talking about sex work was a taboo. When I became part of LMB nobody was talking about sex workers. The women’s movement was against sex workers. They thought it was exploitative to all women. So we had to engage most of them in our programmes until they came on board to realise sex workers rights. When the sex workers went to Parliament in 2004, that meeting acted to provide an amnesty to the women. Now they can take cases to the police. Previously, no sex worker would go to the police to report a client because she would just end up being arrested. Abortion among sex workers is still a very major issue that has to be looked at by the government. Many women are very vulnerable to becoming sex workers. They are poor, from slums and a lot of them are students. They face a lot of violence: rape, the police themselves use them (ask for sex) and then there are clients who rape the women. So there are a lot of incidences of violence that turn into unwanted pregnancies. Most of the women will resort to aborting if they face such violence because they don’t know the father of the child. If you go to a private clinic it can cost 120,000 to 250,000 Uganda shillings. Also, service providers will not tell the sex workers that there is a cheaper way of doing abortions. They try to escalate the costs. Sex workers aren't told about how they can take misoprostol from home and then they can follow up onto the clinic. So the service is perceived to be high although it could be cheaper to abort. We have seen women who have not been able to access safe abortion. We have a young lady here who tried to abort unsafely because it was too expensive for her to have a safe abortion. Again she was afraid that she would be arrested, she was afraid that nurses at the clinic would stigmatise her. So she tried to abort the local way but it didn’t work and now she has a child. Countrywide the problem is lack of contraceptives: you find that some women have aborted two or three times, and then there's the problem of not counselling on contraceptive use and the lack of contraceptives in private and public health institutions. In many cases the men don’t want to use the male condoms and there aren't many female condoms on the market and they are extremely expensive. It is really very important for women to have information about contraceptives and can access contraceptive methods. These days we have sex workers ranging from 14 year to 38 years. Most of these young girls have been trafficked from the villages. Some come from the villages where they are promised some work in the city and they end up into sex work. Some are refugees who have come from Congo, others have come from Rwanda and others have come from South Sudan. We also have sex workers who are students from the colleges. And then we have young ladies who have grown up in slum areas of Kawempe, Katanag in Makerere, Natete who have been orphaned and left to fend for their families. There are the older ladies who work on the streets to sell tomatoes. They give out their numbers to clients or men who can raise them on call. And another group of older women work from their homes in slum areas where pimps take customers to them. There are also some high-class sex workers from 20-32 years old. They work in posh shops in Kampala where they give out business cards. There are sex workers who have pimps that use social media like Facebook and badoo to expose the women. Men just call the pimp who will bring the sex worker. Getting contraceptives to girls under 14 is also a big issue which parliament needs to look at. Now a lot of young ladies find themselves in distress. Most of them come from the villages and most of them have lost parents. They enter into sex work from 14 and they find themselves becoming pregnant. Since contraceptives are restricted to these ages, it is  increasing the problem rather than solving it. There is need for counselling on contraceptives at least from ages of 14 and then there is need for a contraceptive referral centre. Another issue is a lot of rumours that contraceptives damage the body of the women and that it changes the hormones, causing infertility. So these women in the end don’t talk about these problems when they visit health centres and the doctor will not follow up. The women end up concluding that every contraceptive is damaging to their bodies. This project started to have an impact in its second and the third year. Sex workers had learnt about safe services, and how to tell a health institution that they had had a miscarriage. The majority of the feedback has been positive. Abortion should be legalised. The legislators should learn about the stories and they can get a precise picture of the level of deaths caused by unsafe abortion. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Masitula, a sex-worker and beneficiary of the SAAF funded project by Lady Mermaid's Bureau at her home in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 20 May 2017

Life-changing post-abortion care for sex workers

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Masitula. I’m a single mother of two sons and I'm a sex worker. I live in Nansana Wakiso district, it is near Kampala. Every evening I travel 10 kilometres to Natete, a Kampala city suburb where I am a sex worker. I got pregnant after a client refused to wear a condom. I attempted to abort using some unsafe abortion practices but I was unsuccessful. I now have a two-month old baby whose father I do not know. My eldest son is seven years, he is in primary school. The other one is two months. I became a sex worker after a friend advised me that this job can provide me with some income. My husband left me six years ago for another woman when my eldest was only one. He doesn’t give me a single penny for taking care of his son. I used to be a teacher but the income is little. So I have been a sex worker for six years. There are many problems for sex workers here. One is with the police. The police catch us, take our money and sometimes force us to have sex. The other problem is that those men who buy us, some of them don’t pay. They just use us and they don’t pay. It affects me because when you go to work and you don’t get any income, it is bad. They use you for free. And I don’t have anyone to take care of my kids. So sometimes I don’t work I just stay at home because no one will take care of my kids. I live only with my children. I don’t have anyone else. Sometimes I have to take my baby with me and if I get a job, then I give him to my friend until I finish. It is difficult with such a little baby but there is nothing I can do. I don’t even know the father. He just forced me. He said that he will not put on a condom. So that is why I tried to abort with herbs, but it didn't work.They caused me a lot of pain and I was about to die. I didn’t go for a safe abortion because with this government of ours, it is not easy to go to the hospital and tell them that I want to abort. You just go and tell them that you want medicine for ulcers. But Lady Mermaid's Bureau, supported by SAAF, has helped me and other sex workers. When you call them they come immediately. When you are sick they take you to hospital. In everything they are good. When I get some problems, I just go and tell them. They do what other people can’t do. It has changed my life because I now have a friend. They are my friends. I take them as part of my family because I don’t have any family. My father died, I don’t have a mother and my husband left me. They are my family now. Abortion should be legal and also sex work because it is a job. We don’t want to do it. It's just because we don’t have anything else and that is why we do it. So the government should also take us as human beings. No one treats us as human beings. And to prevent women from having unsafe abortions the government should provide people with jobs and factories to work in. So that they don't have to do sex work because it affects these girls, and some of them are like me. We don’t have jobs, you go and look for a job, you don’t find the job and you just find yourself doing this sex working job instead. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda

Masitula, a sex-worker and beneficiary of the SAAF funded project by Lady Mermaid's Bureau at her home in Kampala, Uganda.
story

| 25 September 2022

Life-changing post-abortion care for sex workers

The Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) which is hosted by IPPF was set up in 2006 in order to support grass-roots organisations to increase access to safe abortion. One such organisation which received support under the last round of funding is called Lady Mermaid's Bureau. My name is Masitula. I’m a single mother of two sons and I'm a sex worker. I live in Nansana Wakiso district, it is near Kampala. Every evening I travel 10 kilometres to Natete, a Kampala city suburb where I am a sex worker. I got pregnant after a client refused to wear a condom. I attempted to abort using some unsafe abortion practices but I was unsuccessful. I now have a two-month old baby whose father I do not know. My eldest son is seven years, he is in primary school. The other one is two months. I became a sex worker after a friend advised me that this job can provide me with some income. My husband left me six years ago for another woman when my eldest was only one. He doesn’t give me a single penny for taking care of his son. I used to be a teacher but the income is little. So I have been a sex worker for six years. There are many problems for sex workers here. One is with the police. The police catch us, take our money and sometimes force us to have sex. The other problem is that those men who buy us, some of them don’t pay. They just use us and they don’t pay. It affects me because when you go to work and you don’t get any income, it is bad. They use you for free. And I don’t have anyone to take care of my kids. So sometimes I don’t work I just stay at home because no one will take care of my kids. I live only with my children. I don’t have anyone else. Sometimes I have to take my baby with me and if I get a job, then I give him to my friend until I finish. It is difficult with such a little baby but there is nothing I can do. I don’t even know the father. He just forced me. He said that he will not put on a condom. So that is why I tried to abort with herbs, but it didn't work.They caused me a lot of pain and I was about to die. I didn’t go for a safe abortion because with this government of ours, it is not easy to go to the hospital and tell them that I want to abort. You just go and tell them that you want medicine for ulcers. But Lady Mermaid's Bureau, supported by SAAF, has helped me and other sex workers. When you call them they come immediately. When you are sick they take you to hospital. In everything they are good. When I get some problems, I just go and tell them. They do what other people can’t do. It has changed my life because I now have a friend. They are my friends. I take them as part of my family because I don’t have any family. My father died, I don’t have a mother and my husband left me. They are my family now. Abortion should be legal and also sex work because it is a job. We don’t want to do it. It's just because we don’t have anything else and that is why we do it. So the government should also take us as human beings. No one treats us as human beings. And to prevent women from having unsafe abortions the government should provide people with jobs and factories to work in. So that they don't have to do sex work because it affects these girls, and some of them are like me. We don’t have jobs, you go and look for a job, you don’t find the job and you just find yourself doing this sex working job instead. Stories Read more stories about the amazing success of SAAF in Uganda