I feel confident whereas before I just had fear. I now work hard, believe in myself, and feel good.
When Uganda Reproductive Health Bureau (URHB) first met Stella, she was engaged in sex work on the streets of eastern Uganda. Life was dangerous for Stella - she was frequently beaten and raped. Unaware that she had contracted HIV and with her health deteriorating, she was struggling to survive.
Then Stella met social workers from URHB. With their support, she learned about her HIV status. She was given guidance on living positively and how to take treatment to improve her health. She enrolled onto a six-month hairdressing course and when she completed it, she was given a start-up kit to help her launch her own salon.
Stella was determined to make the most of these opportunities and she worked hard to make her salon a success. It didn’t happen overnight: she gradually had to regain the trust and respect of her community. But one year on, Stella was earning enough money to hire her first employee.
Today Stella earns three times as much per day as she did from sex work. She has invested in two goats and is saving for a cow. She also puts money aside every month in case of emergencies.
Stella is helping her family to thrive too. Thanks to support from her daughter, Stella’s mother has set up her own business selling shoes. Together Stella and her mother pay for Stella’s two younger brothers to go to school. Stella is very proud to give them the opportunities she missed out on.
Inspired by the support she had from URHB and with her new zest for life, Stella wants to encourage other young girls away from sex work. Without any extra support, Stella reaches out to girls she meets on the streets, counselling them and inviting them to her salon to learn hairdressing skills. She has also established a forum for young people living with HIV and encourages her community to provide support to those who need it. Her dream is to develop this group further, ultimately helping children with HIV to access education.
We think Stella is an inspiration. Her story shows that through access to education and training, many women can reach their potential and transform their own lives - and the lives of those around them.
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