Child Prostitute. Photo by Tseliso Monaheng
When Khanyisile Motsa relocated to Hillbrow she was shocked to observe girls as young as nine working as prostitutes and selling drugs on the streets at night. The truth about these forgotten children is:
- Criminals pay agents to recruit children
- They usually target often orphans or/and those from very disadvantaged rural communities
- Victims are trafficked or seduced to leave with lies about a life in the city
- Their IDs are frequently taken from them to make escape and identification difficult
- Their IDs are often sold on the black market
- ‘Owned’ by their exploiters they are prostituted, abused, made to sell drugs
Mam Khanyi, as she became affectionately known, puts herself between the girls and those who exploit them; it’s a dangerous place to be. Driven and guided by what she describes as an ‘inner voice’ Mam has navigated a tough road. It has included being evicted from her flat for overcrowding, being the target of physical attacks and sacrificing her business and career to live as ‘mother’ to a very large, very needy family.
After exhausting her personal funds Mam set up a committee and established Berea Hillbrow Home of Hope shelter in 2000. In 2011 First National Bank donated the house which is currently used for Home of Hope in Kensington. A team of volunteers, individuals and companies have been the primary support for Home of Hope and have helped Mam to transform the lives of countless children.
In addition to providing a home for the girls Home of Hope quickly began reaching out to the wider community operating a variety of practical measures to protect the youth and help the needy in Johannesburg.
However dire children’s circumstances Mam believes that, given the right tools and guidance, they can take control of their lives and be integrated into society. While the work is difficult, relentless and always under-resourced, she is undeterred: ‘What can I say? If we and the others like us stop, what will be left?’