Reflecting the CSW58 priority theme of “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls,” over the coming months Ecumenical Women will be posting stories about our individual member organizations’ efforts to implement the MDGs. This is our ninth installment, a story from EW member organization United Methodist Women has partnered with the Ecumenical Development Foundation to support rural Zambian women in ending sex work by encouraging sustainable agriculture. This relates to a number of the MDGs, including MDG #6 – combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. What follows is an excerpt, but you can find the complete story at UMW’s website here.

… In a village in Zambia, Nelly and her family once depended exclusively on chemical fertilizers to produce the crops on their farm. As years went by, the quality of their soil degraded to a point that hunger and poverty took over the family’s already precarious situation. Nelly’s family tried shifting cultivation to charcoal burning as a source of income, but their situation worsened due to scarce rain and the resulting bare fields. Nelly’s father migrated to the city to look for provisional jobs, leaving Nelly’s mother with seven children without an income or means of support. At the ages of 13 and 15, Nelly and her sister began a life as sex workers to earn a subsistence income and help their mother and siblings survive. In just a short time Nelly’s sister contracted HIV and passed away from AIDS.

The Ecumenical Development Foundation (EDF), a partner of United Methodist Women, became aware of Nelly’s situation and began a rehabilitation program for sex workers. The program emphasized empowerment through the acquisition of basic skills, such as sustainable farming. The program required that all participants learn to raise chickens and pigs, as well as basic land farming without the use of chemical fertilizers. Nelly completed the program and with the help of EDF staff implemented the skills she had learned on her family farm…