“I’m tired of selling my body, I need a job.”
These are the words of 31-year-old mother of five, * Elmarie Beukes, a sex worker from the Havana informal settlement of Windhoek.
Being a sex worker takes a toll, she says, and Beukes is eager to better her life for the welfare of her children, aged 13, 12, 4, 2, and four months.
Beukes has been a sex worker for over a decade after losing her mother, a domestic worker, in 2010.
“After my mother’s death, circumstances forced me to start selling my body to take care of my brother (24) and sister (19), who were still in school at the time.
“I was the only breadwinner, since there was nobody to support us,” she says.
As a result, Beukes fell pregnant with her first child after dropping out of school in Grade 9 when her father failed to pay school fees. When asked about the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, Beukes says: “It’s not what I desired doing, but I was left with no option, it pains me to see my children starve, that’s why I kept going back anytime they asked me to provide something I couldn’t afford”.
“I reached out publicly on social media because I am tired of struggling, I can’t even guess who the fathers of my children are, since I had to go with a different man everyday for even N$150, she says.
y children know how what I used to do for a living because I told my daughters aged 13 and 12.
The unemployed mother lives in a small corrugated iron shack, with only one bedroom and no electricity, which she shares with her children. The family make use of a paraffin stove to cook, although they only have one meal a day and sometimes sleep on empty stomachs.
“The landlord gave my children instant porridge and bread this morning. We didn’t have lunch and I don’t know what we will have for dinner, since there is nothing to eat. “I am looking for help, I am suffering with my children, who do not have a father,” she says.
Beukes told The Namibian that her doctor advised her to stop breastfeeding at three months due to her having a medical condition that can negatively affect her baby’s health. “I can’t afford baby formula, I feed him with sugar water when there is no milk formula to make, Beukes says. Apart from baby milk, she can barely afford food, groceries, toiletries, clothing, and other necessities. She survives on a N$500 which she receives as a social grant for her two daughters, and pays N$400 a month for rent.
- Not her real name, due to fear of stigmatisation.