Lizzy Kutyauripo – Harare – TWENTY-FOUR-YEAR-OLD Precious Philemon survived a gruelling experience of a crumbled marriage, which left her in the care of her young child. As she struggled to make ends meet she resorted to prostitution and for several years she made out of the profession yet she could no longer endure to the gruelling effects and tough side that came along with the job.
Bidding farewell to prostitution, Philemon started a car-washing business in Mbare, along the Matapi flats which she resides- although society views her as an outcast due to her former position she is sailing through and hopes to impact on other people’s lives.
Clad in her orange work-suit as she finishes washing one of the cars, Philemon narrates how she decided to venture into the business. – “Being a single parent with a child doing Grade One, she says life has been a struggle.”
“I had no qualifications and life was just too tough for me. I tried cross-border trading, but it was not profitable. Left with few options on how to make ends meet, I tried prostitution, but it was not profitable either. Eventually, I opted for this business of washing cars,” Precious says.
According to Precious, she has partnered with her friend and two brothers- and to date they experiencing a huge clientele base which comprises mainly commuter omnibuses, buses and private car owners.
“The prices vary according to the type of vehicle with buses being pegged at $15, commuter omnibuses costing $5 and small vehicles pegged at $3 and if it is a full house it gets to $5,” Precious says.
Their daily collections are banked and the money is shared among the employees on a weekly basis.
“We calculate our weekly earnings and divide the money into half which caters for equipment maintenance, servicing and purchasing of detergents, while the other half is shared among the four of us as our weekly wages,” Precious tells.
However, like any other businesses, Precious says hers has had its own share of problems.
“During the first days, many people felt threatened by our existence and at times we were forced to close as they suspected that our existence was politically-aligned,” she narrates.
Pleased with the performance of the business, Philemon hopes to expand her business into other residential areas and she hopes to make a turn around on the lives of other prostitutes who are struggling yet they seem to find the way out.
As explained by Elsie a well- known figure in Harare’s Avenues- ‘life of a prostitute, is not a bed of roses’; and many sex workers suffer from various forms of abuse from either their clients or even some members of the security force.
The desperation for money has forced many to succumb to clients who refuse to pay for services and other refuse to use protection.
“Our hope is to expand this business to other residential areas and work with young girls who would have faced similar situations like mine in life so that they realise that there are other ways to make a living other than prostitution. We would also hope to have agreements and arrangements with garage owners so that they lease us small spaces within their garages to set up our businesses,” says Philemon.
With the unemployment rate being pegged at just over 90%, a lot of school leavers are left jobless with nothing to sustain them.
The most affected is the girl child who is resorting to early marriages, crime and prostitution endangering their lives as they risk contracting the deadly HIV and Aids disease.