Asilweni: Cleaning up the streets

Cherlyn Tshabangu is determined to get drug dealers out of her city, and rehabilitate and educate drug-addicted underage sex workers and reunite them with their families.

Believing that the rise in crime in Krugersdorp could be attributed to high rates of drug dealing and forced sex work, Cherlyn Tshabangu has started a clean-up operation. Asilweni Cleaning Streets, founded in 2012, aims to help rehabilitate drug-addicted sex workers and raise awareness on the dangers of drug abuse.

asilweni-250Asilweni Cleaning Streets, founded in 2012, aims to help rehabilitate drug-addicted sex workers and raise awareness on the dangers of drug abuse (Image: Asilweni)Tshabangu believes that the town, in Gauteng, is a hub for human trafficking and drug dealing. She says, “We decided to take an initiative to help clean our streets of drugs and prostitution. We would also like to see the community taking control of their own streets and making sure that their kids are not exposed to all that we’re trying to stop as these are done right on the streets with no shame.”

The organisation runs campaigns on drug abuse awareness, how to identify illegal drugs, and educates residents on how to get help with their addictions and whom to speak to regarding their problems.

“We help all age groups that are affected by substance abuse and prostitution through counselling as well as detox programmes,” said Tshabangu.

“We work in collaboration with Home Affairs to verify the identities of the drug dealers and prostitutes and we locate families of the girls as most of them are trafficked from different places.”

Many sex workers in the area are young girls in their teens who have fallen victim to drug abuse, and who conduct sex work to fund their addiction. Asilweni works closely with the South African Police Service’s Missing Persons unit to identify the girls they work with, helping to rehabilitate them and reunite them with their families. The organisation also works with Crime Line, Lead SA, the Department of Social Development, and other organisations in the West Rand.

“We are also networking with other African states and are hoping to work closely with them to fight drugs, prostitution and human trafficking. We would ensure that we have volunteers in all areas and all the time helping the community if need be,” said Tshabangu.

“We hope to restore our communities throughout our nation and make them safe and conducive for everybody to live in them.”

“We would like to also have a development centre in all provinces where we can have different skills training for recovered addicts and prostitutes. Most of them are rejected and may relapse so we will help them after rehab to either get work or go to school. And we would like to have these centres all over the country,” she said.

The organisation also involves the community in its effort to eradicate crime, holding marches to protest against the drug dealing.

“In March we had a successful march in demonstration of drugs and prostitution around the West Rand area and we were part of the committee that organised the march. Following that we were also involved in the march in Kagiso where we were sending a message to the dealers there that we are leaving no stone unturned and are intensifying our operations,” said Tshabangu.

PLAY YOUR PART

Asilweni needs donations towards a car or taxi fares to help take their young charges back to their families; and towards medication to help wean the women off their addictions. The funds will also go towards food parcels and toiletries.  The organisation is also looking to form partnerships with local municipalities and businesses.

For more information on how to help, contact Cherlyn Tshabangu on 073 960 0905 or email her at tshabanguc@gmail.com.