Getting back on my own two feet

Date: December 7, 2010
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My name is Claudie. I am 31-years old and I am an ex-drug addict and sex worker.

When I was 8-years-old my parents separated and I remained with my mother at my grandmother’s place in a village in the south. I had a peaceful life with my other sisters; life in this little hamlet was good.

I stopped school after I did not pass my primary school exams. I used to do the housework and help my mother, who was working as maid in one of the rich, established white families.

When I turned 17, one of my mother’s sisters talked to my mother about a nice young man living in her locality. The boy came on a Sunday afternoon with his parents and things being arranged by both families, he was soon visiting me on weekends.

Once I caught him injecting something into his arm and when I questioned, he told me he had diabetes and needed insulin injections. I went to live with him at his family’s place in a suburb of the capital and for some time everything was all right. He was a bricklayer and would work when he got an offer.

He continued his injections but I noticed that these were getting more frequent and it would result in him not going to work as he used to. Some time afterwards, he confessed to me that he was a drug addict and lured me into trying it. At first I refused, but with his insistence, as I loved him, I stepped into this world. I already had a child by that time and was trying to make ends meet; sometimes my family would give me some money for my son’s milk but we soon became broke.

Soon there was no money at all and my companion got arrested. One friend of his who had been released from prison used to visit me and one day suggested I sell myself to earn a living. I was not willing but I thought of my son and accepted; life went on like this for a year, and to face what I had to endure I also continued to use drugs.

When my companion got out of prison, I stopped taking drugs but when he resumed his drug taking, I also got back in it. Meanwhile I had another child, a girl.

Life continued but after my companion’s death at the age of 27, I thought about my destiny and especially that of my girl, who I did not want subjected to the same fate, and I decided to stop it all.

At that time I met a lady who was doing social work with the church in my locality and I confessed to her my desire to quit drugs and live a normal life. She accompanied me to the west of the island to a centre where women like me were being helped and I came to stay there with my two children and got medical treatment. It has been difficult but I stood up. The centre has helped me to get social aid and my children have secured seats in the neighbouring school.

In the centre we all help with the house chores and looking after the children and we also have group discussions and speak about our personal experiences; getting to know that there are other women like us who have also been in pain, some even more.

This helped me to keep up my promise to change and make a better life for me and my kids. We also benefit from the services of a psychologist who individually helps us. For the time being I am getting training and am working in landscaping at a hotel in the same locality, thus I’m earning my living and can buy things for my children and contribute to the centre.

I feel at peace now and hope for the best for my children. I no longer take drugs and as soon as I am fully employed, I intend to apply for an apartment in the low-income housing scheme provided by the government.

*Not her real name.

This article is part of a special series on the 16 Days of Activism for the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on everyday news. For more information on the 16 Days Campaign go to



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