Why we started

What problem does the project aim to address? How was it identified and who was involved in that process? What are other organizations doing in the area and what needs still remain?

The SWAR project aims to address to the problem of prostitution in Uganda specifically in Jinja and Buikwe districts.  Since the early 70s, prostitution has grown to be a huge problem in these districts due to the lack of job opportunities, marketable skills and the poor educational background of women in Jinja and Buikwe.

Consequently, women end up trapped in prostitution in order to survive.  These women often come to Buikwe and Jinja with a hope of a better life but because this area has few decent job opportunities, the only available jobs are in bars, selling alcohol, karaoke dancing and sex.  As a trial they opt to do it for just a while.  But most of them end up with unwanted pregnancies, HIV, raped, addicted to drugs and alcohol – losing their hope, their self respect and dignity.

As a result the vicious cycle begins as prostitution becomes their only means of survival, a way of life to support their addiction and their children who in turn live in the same environment where their lives are debased. They are rejected by their communities and families while poverty dictates their worth and future.

These women now living in prostitution face insurmountable challenges, poverty, violence, abuses, shanty living quarters, financial unpredictability and poor to non-existing family life for their children.

For those who have children, their babies and toddlers are cared for by other people and most of the time by neighbors.  The older ones are left to fend for themselves with the risk of becoming street kids.  Because of that environment the children tend to lack discipline, have poor mother-to-child relationships, and have no father figure in their lives; and to have suffered abuses from their mothers or from those responsible for their care.  The biggest challenge for the children who are growing up surrounded by violence, drugs, alcohol and abandonment is that they in turn become part of that environment.

Despite these insurmountable needs in Jinja and Buikwe district, there are currently no organizations apart from SWAR working with women in prostitution.  SWAR was founded in 2007 by Mary Zema who began working with nine women from the streets of Mbikko in Buikwe district.  She would take regular visits down to the women working at bars, spend time with them, talking to them, getting to know why they ended up in prostitution and working with them toward a life out of prostitution.  She was later joined by Kizza, Cosmas and Eunice.

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