Whenever I travel, I try to ensure I’m fitting in a little bit of time to learn about some of the social issues that impact a country I am visiting. Through my work as a social good blogger and advocate for various non-profit organizations, I have learned about many of the issues that negatively impact women and girls around the world. From poverty and hunger to lack of education, safe water and health care services, each issue has its unique set of challenges that keeps women and girls from thriving. Human sex trafficking is one of the darker topics I have touched upon, and sadly it is often one of the most tragic especially when it involves young girls.
Bolivia is a country that is notorious for prostitution as well as child labor. Child labor (children can work independently as young as ten) and prostitution are actually legal. Although it is not legal for girls under the age of 18 to be prostitutes, sadly the law is often overlooked and disregarded. As in most places around the world, a life as a prostitute is not one that most girls or women would choose and the majority of girls who end up in prostitution have been sexually abused as a child.
Despite being legal in Bolivia, it is often not very well-regulated and bribes are common ways to get anything done under the table. Women who are registered as prostitutes are required to have regular medical check-ups but it is easy to let it slide. Furthermore, there is much corruption within the prostitution industry. Women and girls are abused by their pimps and their customers, and are paid very little for the services they provide. The average “trick” is about $3 and in order to pay enough to cover rent at the brothel women must multiple tricks a night. It is not uncommon for some women to do up to 40 tricks a night.
On my first day in Bolivia, I met with SutiSana to learn about their amazing work in helping women leave prostitution and change their lives. Founded five years ago by the faith-based non-profit Word Made Flesh, SutiSana helps women in El Alto, Bolivia leave the lives of prostitution by providing them with training, support and guidance to become self-sufficient and gainfully employed.
The name SutiSana comes from Aymara and Spanish, the two languages that the women speak, and was chosen for its beautiful meaning. In Aymara, Suti means name. In Spanish, Sana means healthy or healed. As women leave prostitution, they often leave behind a name they used there and find a new identity – a Healed Name.