Posts Tagged ‘West Africa’

A few years ago, I traveled on assignment to Mali, West Africa. At the end of one particular day as I tried to account for my expenses, I scratched my head wondering how to write prostitute into my budget. Carina, a Dutch mission worker we had come to see, took us to a brothel she visits weekly to counsel the prostitutes. She and the brothel owner have become odd friends.  Even though he makes a lucrative profit as a pimp, he likes it when Carina visits and he encourages her to help the girls find a way out of the business.

After a nice long chat about how much he loves George W Bush (“if i see him with this eye, then i can die in peace!”), the pimp rounded up a few girls and demanded they sit for an interview with us. For security reasons, he asked us not to film their faces, but gave us full access to their stories through audio. The stories were all the same… lured to Bamako via deception, swindled out of thousands of dollars, health problems, loosing face with family back home, unable to speak the language, and finally a turn to prostitution in a state of absolute hopelessness and abandonment. I’m not sure if our friendly pimp was motivated by a sense of guilt because of his dirty business or pride, viewing himself as a protector of his girls, keeping them off the dangerous streets of Bamako.  Either way, we were grateful that he and Carina could find a way to work together to help these women regroup and try to get their lives back together.

Today, Carina and a team of Malians provide an alternative for the ladies trapped in the red light district. The Rahab Centre offers job training and a small loan to help street women start businesses and find things to sell other than their own bodies. Many ladies attend weekly bible studies and prayer gatherings longing to grow in their faith and cast aside the shame that so often binds them to the darkness.

This video tells the story of one of the prostitutes we met while visiting the Bamako brothel.