ZVISHAVANE – With the current economic crisis gripping the country, people are fighting just to bring food onto the table with others going to strange extremes to make a living.
This is true for sex workers in Zvishavane who are taking advantage of homeless children by using them as sex slaves.
Investigations by this publication reveal that the sadistic sex workers are recruiting desperate young girls and give them shelter but only force them to entertain usually older men who want to pay for sex.
Being powerless in the whole arrangement, these girls are deprived of the money they bring in, and are provided with only the basics to keep them alive and up to the task.
Some of these girls end up graduating into full time sex work, with places like the garages around Mandava being an overnight habitat for sex workers some of whom are as young as 16.
The garages provide cover for the sex workers who shelter in the numerous broken down cars during the night and roam the streets during the day.
Zvishavane Youth Council (ZYC), an organisation which trains young people several artistic skills as a way of fighting anti-social behaviour, says the exploitation of young girls by seasoned sex workers was a worrisome trend in Zvishavane.
"We know of a 16 year old girl who used to live with her sister before she was forced to sell her body so that they could earn a living, and she fell pregnant," said ZYC facilitator, Bigboy Murenga.
"The most affected are homeless orphans who are so desperate that they can do whatever they are told so that they can be sheltered and given something to eat," he said.
The centre is currently housing five girls who were rescued from forced prostitution in various parts of Zvishavane.
The girls receive counseling from pastors in the town and the centre reports that their behavior has changed for the better.
With four members operating on a voluntary basis, ZYC imparts life skills to troubled and desperate youth who wish to make something of their lives.
The centre relies on selling the few artifacts that they make to sustain the operations of their programmes and members often have to fork out funds from their own pockets if they have some.
Speaking to TellZim News, Murenga lamented the general lack of concern for towards the welfare of homeless children in Zvishavane, saying the issue of forced prostitution was a cancer eating away on the social fabric.
"The going is really tough but we can't give up though we can barely make ends meet. Our thrust is not merely about providing welfare to distressed youth, but to give them skills that will transform their lives for the better," said Murenga.
Meanwhile, the girls who are sheltered by the ZYC have found a way of supplementing the centre's meager resources by starting a garden which produces some vegetables that are sold to the community.
"We also sell the painting which we make paintings with one of our stuff, Mr Mupingo conducting musical lessons. We would be grateful if well-wishers can come on board and help make the centre work better," said the centre's Clifford Mugiya.news