Faraja Trusts' history goes back to one memorable day in 1990 when Dr. Lucy Nkya, then researching for her master's degree on modern family planning methods, encountered a group of commercial sex workers (CSWs) fighting over a "coat" along Shamba Street in Morogoro town, Tanzania. Surprisingly, the "coat" turned out to be a condom, which one of the CSWs had borrowed from a friend but had failed to return. Dr. Nkya learned that one condom could be shared among several CSWs because they were scarce, expensive (according to the CSWs) and the users were ignorant about their use. Dr Lucy's curiosity about the profession led her to the discovery that although the number of men frequenting brothels was decreasing due the HIV/AIDS scare, the number of young women joining the profession was increasing resulting in increased competition among the CSWs for clients. Very few CSWs were aware of or cared about contracting HIV/AIDS. According to them it was better dying of AIDS than dying of hunger! The CSWs who numbered about 350 lived in a filthy environment and some of their customers were not exactly decent men. In short, the women were exposed to many risks including contracting HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), other communicable diseases, harassment, physical abuse and rape.
Although, the CSWs were aware of the risks involved in their profession, they had few options to protect themselves. The women of Shamba Street approached Dr. Nkya to help them find a way out of the predicament. At the start of the project, the women elected a leadership that worked with Dr. Nkya to get free condoms, sensitize and educate CSWs and their clients about HIV/AIDS, rehabilitate the CSWs, access free screening and treatment of STDs, and gather information and develop strategies for accessing grants or loans for establishing income generating activities (IGAs). After two years, some 250 re-socialized CSWs had moved out of the brothels and loathed to identify themselves with commercial sex work. Some became peer educators, while others assisted in distributing condoms. Some became engaged in more reliable income generating activities such as selling sardines, cereals and food vending. A few got married while other learned various skills such as tailoring. Incomes generated from the IGAs enabled the women to pay their rents, education their children, access healthcare, buy land and other assets, and construct their own houses.
Although the initial aim of the project was to respond to the immediate needs of CSWs, it became apparent that there were other vulnerable groups in Morogoro who could easily succumb to the commercial sex trade, drug abuse or criminal behavior unless reliable interventions were put in place. Moreover, following the achievements of the initial project some poor women came to Faraja to request for assistance. The Faraja management met with the women to discuss their problems and decided to have a more focused approach to addressing vulnerable women's problems. Consequently, the Women Neighborhood Association (WNA) project was conceived. The Women Neighborhood Association assists vulnerable women (single mothers, widows, battered women and ex-CSWs) from the same neighborhood by encouraging them to form self - groups as a condition for getting interest-free loans. In 1999, WNA changed to Faraja Micro Finance. Subsequently, efforts to re-organize the loans to Savings and Credit Unions (SACCOs) were started. By May 2004, 16 SACCOs had been formed with a total of about 3,000 beneficiaries.
Later a more focused approach to addressing the problems of vulnerable people of both sexes and age groups was adopted. Currently, the Faraja project covers orphans and vulnerable children, out of school youth, poor men and women, widows, battered women, and rape cases in all the six districts of Morogoro region. Faraja Trust Fund has widened its scope to include other vulnerable groups including men, youth, orphans and children, provision of legal aid and human rights assistance, and a campaign to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - a cultural practice widely practiced in Morogoro region. Currently, the projects being implemented include:
A programme for orphans and vulnerable children
A programme for out of school youth
The micro-finance project
Community mobilization and peer action programme with a focus on empowering vulnerable groups
Various programmes for people living with HIV/AIDS including home-based care and counseling
Legal and human rights assistance to vulnerable people with a focus on widows, battered women, orphans and people living with HIV/AIDS
School Without Walls Programme
School health programme for both primary (grade) and secondary (high) schools
The innovation of Faraja lies in the courage, belief and confidence of the members in taking up responsibility for their own lives and personal development. The commercial sex workers through the support of courageous professionals willingly transformed their lifestyles and that of other vulnerable groups in the community. Faraja made use of the target group as its main resource in driving this change. The transformed commercial sex workers were used as role models and agents of change in the society. This has had an impact in the community and contributed to widening the scope of Faraja. Currently other vulnerable groups of different age groups and gender benefit from Faraja projects. The Faraja project has contributed to empowering the vulnerable members of society and the former CSWs and other vulnerable groups feel more responsible and have more control over their own lives. They engage in IGAs with pride and have realized the importance of being self-reliant. Through IGAs and SACCOS the economic status at the individual, household and community level has improved. Maasai women for example have been empowered and some have started IGAs, while others have learnt new skills such as tailoring, hygiene and sanitation. Before this project started, vulnerable groups were passive, lacked confidence and were content with their situation but after these initiatives community members realized that it is possible to utilize the locally available resources to solve some of their problems. Moreover, the success of the project is reflected in the behavioral change among vulnerable people particularly with regard to their self-esteem. The men (soldiers, factory workers, policemen, students, and cattle herders) who were clients of CSWs and who used to treat them like pleasure objects have also began to change their ways. Stigmatization, social discrimination and alienation of CSWs and people living with HIV/AIDS have greatly reduced.
The overall impact of the Faraja project can be summarized as follows:
The brothels at Shamba Street no longer exist. They have all been demolished and new structures erected
270 CSWs have quit commercial sex work and reduced the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
Education and care for the children of former CSWs
Awareness creation on HIV/AIDS among the Maasai community
Empowering Maasai women to start IGAs, learn tailoring and discourage Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
More men are participating in public HIV/AIDS campaigns
Faraja has extended its services to all the six districts of Morogoro
There has been a noticeable behavioral change and increased self-esteem among vulnerable women
Stigma related to HIV/AIDS in Morogoro has been drastically reduced. This is reflected by the increased demand for Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT), homecare and counseling services, and disclosure by people living with HIV/AIDS of their status.
Increased appreciation of the role Faraja is playing by the local governments, partners and the community.