By Arnold Neliba
FREETOWN, NOVEMBER 7, 2023 (CISA)-A large number of underage girls between ages 9 to 17 are working as sex workers on the streets of Freetown, Sierra Leone, at markets, brothels, and nightclubs, with most of them unaware of the dangers involved in the activity.
According to a report by Don Bosco Fambul, a child welfare organization in Freetown and an apostolate of the Salesians of Don Bosco (S.D.B) in Sierra Leone, the girls are used, abused and discarded by adults and even the police. Based on their discovery, the young girls some from other countries and poor villages of Freetown offer their services for 1 USD or less.
“The main reason for their presence in the streets during the night is poverty: they want to help financially their families. We have seen that several of them are Senior Secondary School and even university students who are searching for money to pay school fees,” reads the report shared on their website (https://donboscofambulsl.org/).
It adds that “On several occasions, you find children who have been literally cheated, as they were offered work as maids or waiters in Freetown and ended up working as sexual workers in night clubs and bars. The majority of them are sick, even though unaware of their health condition.”
Don Bosco Fambul has been operating a shelter for young girls who have faced sexual abuse and need shelter, support and education. Recognizing the specific need for girls who had been forced into prostitution, and with a number having contracted sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, hepatitis B and C and other sicknesses, like tuberculosis and kidney-related illnesses.
Launched in 2017 by Fr Jorge Crisafulli, the program is reported to have rehabilitated over 600 girls enabling them to return to education and skills straining and reintegrating them into the community.
“The main aim of the programme (GO+) is to reach out to underage girls who are involved in a situation of prostitution (aged 9 to 17) and to take them out of the streets, offering a safe environment where holistic rehabilitation and healing is carried out (physical, psychologically, spiritual, morally and socially). The final aim is for them to recover their dignity through empowerment (education – skills training) and reintegrating them into the community (village and family life, society and world of work). A future of hope and joy is opened to them,” the report concludes.