I feel strong now

I feel strong now

There wasn’t enough money to live at home so I grew up in a shelter in Khayelitsha. There was a school there but I dropped out when I was 17 to help my parents bring in a bit of money. I got a job as a cleaner at a club and was promoted to bar lady after a few months. I was earning R1900 per month. How can I pay transport and send money home on that?

A nice secret
I began sleeping with my boss for extra money. He was paying me more than my salary! Except sometime he wouldn’t pay me at all. I didn’t call it sex work I was just doing it, just enjoying the money. It was just a nice secret. When I saw that this money was better, I decided to quit my job as a bar lady. I stayed sleeping with this man. I had feelings for him and I started getting jealous of his wife. We started fighting and he would threaten to show my nude photos I had sent him to other people. I slept with this guy for many years.

My body and my choice
I joined the Sisonke movement in 2014. I paid my R50 and got my t-shirt and that’s where my journey with them started. They asked me the story about this man and I told them everything. That’s when I realised that he was actually my first client. They told me I mustn’t let people rule my body - that it was my body and my choice. I started doing other piece jobs like handing out flyers for traditional healers and that kind of thing. It was there that I met guys who would become clients. They would come to me talking about love and I would tell them ‘I’m not here for love, I’m here for business!’ I also meet clients through word of mouth and on Facebook. I slide into their direct messages! They call me and tell me where to meet them and then that’s it.

 

I’m happy with this work, I won’t lie. I don’t have an education, but even I can make good money. It allowed me that.



Learning about our rights
It was at the Hands Off programme that I learned even more about our rights as sex workers but mostly what stands out for me is that we learned to talk about our feelings. I feel strong now. Before, I used to cry about what people would say about me in the community. I was shy. I was even too scared to go to the shop. They would say, ‘Look at this young girl, this ‘magosha’ (derogatory word for sex worker)’. When people call you that, it’s like they’re killing you. Now I don’t care because I’ve learned a lot and I feel strong. I wish people would just stop shaming sex workers. I’m strong but others aren’t and they kill themselvesbecause of the things people say to them. People don’t understand: we aren’t hurting anyone with our work so why can’t they just leave us alone?


They remind me to collect my tablets
The people of Hands Off take care of me. If I have a problem at home, I tell them. If I don’t collect my tablets, they call me to collect them. It’s them who reminds me. I’m happy with this work, I won’t lie. I don’t have an education, but even I can make good money. It allowed me that. I put the money straight into the bank because I am my own boss. My son doesn’t know what I do for work. All he knows is that mommy goes out to work and comes home with nice food for him to eat. One day when he’s older I will tell him what I do. That’s my wish. For now, I make money on my own time. I wake up on my own time. I spend my day how I want to and it is on me and my own time.

 

Nono, Cape Town

Nono

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