Their commitment is to give victims of prostitution a chance at a life of dignity, but also to save adolescents at risk of abuse. This is the mission of the Sisters of the Servants of the Eucharist and of Charity
Alicia Lopez Araujo
Freeing women from the shackles of all forms of slavery, with special attention to victims of prostitution and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This is the mission of the Sisters of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament and Charity, founded by Michaela Desmesiere y Lopez Decastillo y Olmeda – today honored as Santa Maria Michaela – in 1856 in Madrid. After meeting a victim of prostitution in Madrid’s San Giovanni de Dio Hospital, young Michaela, a member of the Spanish nobility, gave up her social standing in order to dedicate her life to others and in 1845 opened her first shelter for exploited women. Following the talent of their founder, the Sisters of Holy Eucharist and Charity are currently working on four continents with 170 projects in 25 countries.
Also from the little Cape Verde archipelago – using a verse from the Exodus – Sister Simona Perini tells L’Osservatore Romano – “the cry of suffering of many women caught up in the web of exploitation has reached our ears.” Can we stand indifferent to this cry for help?” That is why – explains Sister Simona – and thirteen years ago, some sisters founded the Congregation of Nuns of the Servants of the Eucharist and Charity in Mindelo, on the island of São Vicente. The three nuns, the Italian nun Simona and the two Spanish ones, remain at the forefront of restoring the dignity and rescue of women victims of or at risk of prostitution, who “live in conditions of extreme poverty in suburban shantytowns, without electricity, water, gas and sanitation. Many of them are mothers.” Single women, abused or abandoned by their husbands, forced into prostitution to support themselves and their families.
Over the years, the small congregation became a free and liberating presence for the vulnerable women of the island. In 2016, the nuns launched the social program “Kredit na bo” (“Trust yourself” in the local Creole language), the main objectives of which are: rescue, personal development, social and work reintegration for women, as well as the condemnation of cases of injustice. The programme, which employs a team of Cape Verdean specialists, consists of several projects: the Listening Center; communication activity; Psychological and social intervention with adolescents at risk of exclusion and prostitution and raising awareness and awareness of this phenomenon. The listening center – explains Sister Perini – “is a space intended for the reception and educational, psychological and legal accompaniment of women of all nationalities, aged between 18 and 40 (with some exceptions), who live on São Vicente or on other islands. Users have the opportunity to participate in Upbringing courses (literacy, computer science, cooking, cutting and sewing) A monthly food package is distributed to some families of the beneficiaries of the program, but Sister Simona emphasizes that this assistance remains temporary in order to avoid falling into a state of complete dependence on aid without A person does anything to change his status.
The aim of the communication activity is to establish a direct relationship with the victims of prostitution, in order to encourage the search for alternatives in building a free and dignified life. Sister Pierini notes, “It is necessary to know the social, economic and family reality of all the women who come to our service and decide to make this walk with us. There are weekly visits to the house; Tea as they walk in the alleys, observing and gathering information to chart an appropriate course.
This project, which currently includes 185 women, “also generates from the need to provide concrete answers to an increasing number of marginalized adolescents who are at risk of falling into prostitution; therefore, in the space allotted to them, they have the opportunity to acquire the skills necessary for a harmonious development: school support, group upbringing On values, psychological, educational and legal support, but another important goal is to raise awareness in Cape Verdean society on issues related to human trafficking and sexual exploitation, to disseminate information on victim assistance and to raise awareness of the importance of individual actions and omissions in this area, in order to hold everyone accountable.
Although Cape Verde has been considered an average human development indicator since 2007, it still has to contend with drought and the scourge of unemployment, especially among young people and women. 9.2% of the population lives in extreme poverty, according to the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs. Sister Simona said in this context that “the absence of prospects and visions leads to alcohol abuse, drug use, juvenile delinquency, and beggary. In recent years, prostitution fueled by sex tourism has also hit the archipelago as a tragedy of child prostitution,” noting that working in such delicate contexts It includes daily challenges: “The biggest challenge facing us today is to ensure a safe place and accompany, for some point of the way, the most vulnerable adolescents and women. Many girls are raped by godparents and family members, while others are at risk of prostitution. Add to this the growing number of cases Early pregnancy, which forces many young mothers to accept harassment so that there is a ceiling for them and the fetus.” Therefore, the group intends to expand its field of work to other islands, and Sister Simona asserts in this context, “It is particularly important for us to establish reception centers for women victims of trafficking, prostitution, sexual violence and vulnerable adolescent girls.”
With great Spanish support and assistance, “We can sustain, through micro-credit, the dreams of many of the women who take part in our culinary courses, and while also completing their entrepreneurial upbringing, each receives a set of kitchen utensils, then the food they prepare is done in Streets”. In this context, Julia’s story is a sign of inspiration for other women. Sister Simona enthusiastically confirms, because she believed in herself, and became a seed of hope for many other women. “This young woman, years ago, came to our center to ask for help: tormented by a life spent in prostitution, she aspired to find other ways to feed her large family and get out of this state of decline. Julia lived in a small tin house and in the courtyard had only a small stove Our workers suggested that she take part in the cooking course. Since her desire for salvation and the need to rely on someone to support her was strong, even before she finished the course, she began to sell the food that she was preparing. Today, with a decent job, he has been able to obtain conditions Better housing and a quieter standard of living This story is proof that together we can reverse course and embark on a new path to freedom.