L to R: Sr. Marie Josephine Fenando & Sr. Magdalena Eichenger, RENATE Working Board meeting, Vilnius, November, 2019
This week’s news about RENATE members’ work at grassroots level, comes from Sr. Marie Josephine Fenando, OLCGS, based in Belgium. Marie Josephine is a RENATE member working with SAWA, an organisation with a mission in in Brussels, Liege and Namur.
‘’Most of the work is in support of women and girls who have been trafficked from Africa and are now in prostitution and finding it difficult to break the chains of dependency.
As a result of our work, the girls are now able to stand on their own two feet. They look very happy healthy, are smiling and earning their living. When we first met them they were so frightened even to look at us. Most of them came to us crying, tired and sad.
In the beginning, they could not tell us the truth. They were sick and disappointed. As a result of their abuse, they have had to go through medical treatments. What is particularly challenging is the fact that even though they manage to escape from their traffickers, because of the cultural obligations, they must continue to send money to their family despite no longer having any money to hand. They have lots of debts which must be honoured.
SAWA helps the girls in lots of ways. Where possible, SAWA takes the responsibility to pay the debts and also to send money to a girl’s family until the girls can find gainful employment. SAWA provides shelter, food, clothing, counselling, pocket money, even the monthly bus ticket. Sometimes they don’t come to live in our shelter house but even so, we help them. SAWA takes care of their health & pays medical expenses. In many instances, we have to find ways to solve alcohol and drug problems. Counselling alone does not sufficiently help them, we need to always keep them occupied.
SAWA helps the girls in Belgium to get their residence cards. Once they have a residence card, the girls can go to language classes or skill training classes.
Some girls have undertaken academic studies, they have education qualifications but they cannot work in Belgium, thus they have to get their certificate to legalize their status. For that, they must go through a training period. Meanwhile, they have to register in the city hall. (C P A S) In Belgium, CPAS then provides them with a monthly allowance until they find a job. While attending training and classes, the girls do some part-time work to earn a little money.
Today some of our girls are doing very well. For example: two of them are running a restaurant; others are hairdressers, waitresses, room-cleaners in hotels, house cleaners, cashiers in shops, secretarial work, running small business (buying & selling), baby sitters, caretakers of elderly people, nursery teachers and doing secretarial work in offices. For those who want to start their own small businesses, SAWA is there to support them.
These days SAWA needs more accommodation for girls. One of our shelter houses is not yet finished due to a financial problem. But nonetheless, we are doing well. We give first priority to our girls. Today we work as one family with our team. We are very proud of them. We are always ready to do what we can for them.
I hope you got some insights into our work’’.
Marie Josephine from Belgium.