Masvingo commercial sex workers find new survival means

By Sukuoluhle Ndlovu

For Muchaneta Chisvo*, a commercial sex worker in Masvingo, the Covid-19 pandemic has taught her the importance of having several streams of income for a rainy day. 

Chisvo (24), said the lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19 that was first imposed last year as infections spiraled across the country caught her unawares. 

Suddenly the mother of two had no food for her small family as she could no longer engage her regular clients or find new ones.

“Covid -19 took us by surprise, and we did not anticipate that the pandemic will keep us out of work for this long,” Chisvo said as she revealed that she was now into hawking in Masvingo. 

She sells skin lightening creams and other products that are popular with commercial sex workers to eke out a living.

“Our work has been hugely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and we hardly make any money from selling sex these days,” Chisvo said.

“I decided to invest my little savings in a small business selling skin lightening creams and pills that people use to enlarge their behinds, hips and breasts.

“I get my merchandise from Zambia and it is mainly fast moving products.

“I also have support from my fellow sex workers who buy from me.”

She sometimes markets her merchandise through social media platforms such as WhatsApp.

“Instead of waiting for clients that might never come due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, I will rather sell a few items and grow my business,” Chisvo added. 

Prisca Murombedzi*, from Masvingo’s Muchecke suburb, said she was now doing commercial sex work as a part time job after she started selling vegetables during the Covid-19 induced lockdowns.

“Covid -19 has taught me that relying on one job is not the way to go,” said Murombedzi (37).  In life one has to have a backup plan and not rely on one source of income. 

“After realising that Covid-19 is here to stay, l decided to join other women who were buying and selling goods.

“Instead of waiting for clients I can raise money through buying and selling vegetables.” 

Chisvo and Murombedzi encouraged fellow sex workers to find new ways of making money during the Covid-19 pandemic as their work will be constrained by lockdowns.

They also called on the government to extend soft loans to commercial sex workers in order for them to start their own businesses and mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

In Zimbabwe bars, beer halls and clubs – places where commercial sex workers mostly find their clients – have been closed since the national lockdowns were first imposed last year.

Sex work is criminalised in Zimbabwe, leaving those in the trade vulnerable to abuse by clients and law enforcement agents.

  • Not their real names 

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