A New Beginning for Sex Workers in Jordan
Through its Health Linkages and National Networks (HLNN) program and in partnership with a local organization, IRD organized a cosmetology vocational training course for 30 sex workers in Jordan. It was a special day and a turning point for the women who have renewed hope, ambition, and determination to improve their lives.
IRD and the Bushra Center for Women’s Studies established a trusted support network for sex workers to learn about choices they have and how they can protect themselves and their health.
An estimated 750,000 Iraqis fled through Jordan between 2003 and 2006, when the Jordanian government closed the borders. By that time, Iraqis made up more than 10 percent of the country’s population and government services became overwhelmed. In the city of Zarqa, high numbers of vulnerable Iraqi women were forced into sex work to survive and are suffering from domestic and sexual violence and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases.
IRD and the Bushra Center for Women’s Studies established a trusted support network for sex workers to learn about choices they have and how they can protect themselves and their health. During an HLNN-facilitated focus group aimed at identifying appropriate income-generating opportunities, the idea for cosmetology training was suggested by participants. The Bushra Center played a critical role in organizing the three-month training course, which was conducted by a qualified specialist who delivered theoretical and practical training on haircutting, styling, coloring, and makeup.
The partnership between the Bushra Center and IRD has been fruitful, aiding the women to improve their lives and the lives of their children. Six of the trainees have already rented a space and basic equipment to establish their own salons. The rest of the trainees are starting their new careers by opening home-based salons, practicing their new skills on family members and neighbors. Today, the women feel more self-confident and secure.
The HLNN program works with 250 at-risk Iraqi women, providing them with in-depth health and violence prevention training and linking them to support networks. HLNN is increasing awareness of reproductive health, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, STIs, breast cancer, and of the need for regular reproductive healthcare and contraception. HLNN refers beneficiaries to reproductive health programs, free contraception, and subsidized HIV testing at partner Ministry of Health centers, and offers alternative sources of income generation through vocational training.
The Health Linkages and National Networks program is funded by the US Department of State and managed by IRD. It is scheduled to run from September 2011 through August 2012.