In Dakar, Maguette drives an association of sex workers and provides these young women with benevolence and support.
Dakar, in a discreet alleyway, a small house, a little worn out by the years, hides under the leafy mango trees. A young aficionado of Lionel Messi, Barça jersey on his back, comes out with a ball at his feet. “Mommy, if you look for me, I’m playing soccer outside. Mamoudou, 11 years old, is Maguette’s youngest child. He is the pride and joy of Maguette, as are his grandchildren, whose toys are scattered all over the courtyard of his modest home. It is also in this house that Maguette regularly welcomes sex workers who are members of Karlène, the sex workers’ association she drives. “I wasn’t predestined to take care of people, the community fell on me, but today I can’t do without it. »
Maguette is a mother, a grandmother and a landmark for those around her. “Sex work is tolerated, but the law is obsolete*. Many girls remain in hiding because they refuse to register; even with the card, they can be arrested because soliciting is prohibited. “Community structures are therefore essential for many girls who have little support. Every month, Karlène brings the sex workers together for an awareness session. Self-testing for HIV is one of the topics regularly discussed. “They need to be sensitized and informed. They need to be able to benefit from what we haven’t had. They represent the future, future generations. They must have healthy youth. »
About twenty young women are present that day, smiling, happy to share a moment of non-judging conviviality. Very attentive, they are particularly interested in HIV self-testing. “It’s a practical tool, without needles, without pain,” says one of them. And Maguette confirms: “they have a lot of risky practices, so they use and give HIV self-tests to their peers and clients, because it allows them to test themselves regularly. Then, they call us or the hotline* and are referred to a structure not too close to their home in order not to be stigmatized”.
Advising, orienting, protecting, such is the daily life of Maguette whose body bears the stigma of fifty years of struggle. “I had a close relative who was a drug user and a person living with HIV. I myself was a sex worker. I joined the association and eventually became its president. I am also vice-president of RENAPOC. Helping is my life. »
Thanks to Enda Santé, partner of the ATLAS Project in Senegal, Karlène was able to join the pool of relay associations for the dispensing of HIV self-tests. “Enda has been supporting us for a very long time, and has strengthened us enormously at the community level. This has enabled us to make great progress, by accompanying us in the talk sessions, in the implementation of demedicalized testing. Myself, they have allowed me to acquire a diploma as a medical sales representative. »
The past year has not been without difficulties for Karlène, with the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of activities have stopped,” says Maguette. Girls are working less. I was worried about many of them. We recommended that the barrier measures be respected, but with the situation, it was complicated. They had to eat. It is the survival instinct that dominates. »
Moved, but with an irreducible strength in her eyes, Maguette confides: “I will always fight for them, they are counting on me. This is Maguette! »
*In Senegal, sex workers can legally register as such, and thus benefit from a health and other monitoring record.
*Anonymous and free toll-free toll-free number: 800 30 30