There is need to educate, reabsorb, counsel as well as empower them through vocational training to enable them live a more decent life
Following the shocking appearance of sex workers during the last Workers’ Day rally in Lagos, organised labour, under the aegis of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Lagos State Council, is taking steps to collaborate with Lagos State Government, non-governmental organisations and other relevant agencies to re-orientate the sex workers and gradually rid the state of the ignoble profession.
Disclosing this to Newsfieldglobal, the Chairman of NLC in the state, Comrade Agnes Funmilayo Sessi, said it was embarrassing for the young ladies to come out boldly during the parade coupled with the fact that their union is not affiliated to any of the recognised labour centres.
Sessi, who lamented the audacity of the sex workers, said: Basically, the work of NLC is to organise all its affiliate unions. The sex workers are not part of our affiliate unions. So I am sure government has not given permission for sex workers to be a registered trade union, but even if government permits that, I am so sure NLC will not allow such a trade union among its affiliates.
“Having said that, last year May1, when we had Workers’ Day, we were so shocked that we saw a group of very well dressed and good looking ladies, and it was not until we mounted the podium to acknowledge all the trade unions that marched past in from of the governor when we saw this group of ladies march past us and we saw their banners bearing ‘sex working is their right and all what not.
“We were shocked. All other trade unions that marched past us, we waved our hands and acknowledged them. But immediately we saw them, we dropped our hands because it was a thing of shock to us. You know anything that goes wrong in that circle they will mention NLC. It wasn’t only NLC that was there, TUC was there and we also had security personnel there, and I was looking out, probably the security agencies would challenge them as to how they got themselves to that place because we never invited any group like that.
“It is only our affiliates that have the right to come on that day because we are actually celebrating the workers but sex workers are not part of us. But earlier as I have said, I am a woman, I am a mother, and a wife; and I am a social change agent in our society. Probably these people are being organised by other group of people. I don’t know if there is anyone trying to take advantage of these vulnerable girls, but on our own, we are not to judge anybody, we are not to condemn, rather, we like to be social change agents because they are also children of some parents.”
Describing the girls as prodigal children that need reabsorption into a decent lifestyle, brought back to their senses with change in orientation and perception about life, she pointed out that some of them might have taken the decision due to economic hardship.
According to her, “some might be as a result of bad association, and some because of the bad foundation they had. We contribute, not only to the workforce but also to ensure there is stability in the economy, so we ensure as NLC that the society is rid of every evil. So we try to bridge the gap between the failures in the government side, the failures on the family side and try to reorganize or reorient ate the minds of these young ones. We can with love and correction add value to their life and regain them to positive living. We don’t want to condemn them in totality because we cannot throw the baby away with the bathe water.
“We will partner with some NGOs and some bodies with the capacity to counsel them and to also add value to their lives. NGOs that can engage them in positive ways, train them in whichever trade they might choose. However, in doing this the recalcitrant ones who don’t want to change might have themselves to blame. We will not totally condemn them but to re-orientate them.”
To effect the process, she disclosed that the congress would seek audience with the state governor to discuss it as the union does not have the capacity to do it alone.
“We want to partner with government and NGOs. So as soon as government gives us the listening ear then we commence the process. We also want to identify those taking advantage of them, and if there is need for them to be prosecuted so that these young ones can be liberated and then they can find a decent way of life and be usef to themselves and the country. So it’s going to be a three way thing, the government, Labour and the NGO. Let us all come together, even the churches and mosques should not be left out,” she noted.