THE GRACE CENTRE
There is only one crossing between the Southern African country of Zambia and neighboring Botswana, which is in the town of Kazungula. The Zambezi River flows between the two countries, and all vehicles must be carried over on a pontoon. Commercial trucks wait in a queue for up to 10 days, during which time the drivers play cards, listen to music, and way too often, entice vulnerable young girls and women to “entertain” them. This is much easier than it should be in an extremely impoverished town with a history of sexual abuse and child marriage. With no alternative sources of income, many girls and young women become victims.
Kazungula has over 90% unemployment with a per capita income of less than fifty cents per day. Less than 15% of all children reach secondary school, and the rate for girls is usually even lower than that. Attending secondary school requires the payment of school fees, which most families cannot afford. With no education and no chance of employment, many girls in their teens marry young and/or fall prey to sexual abuse and prostitution.
There are no vocational training programs in Kazungula or the surrounding villages, and traveling to other towns, such as Livingstone, is not a possibility for all these girls.
What Could Possibly Be Done to Help
The only permanent answer identified by community leaders was an opportunity for training, and in some case, the fund to complete secondary education. The founders of the Lushomo Trust identified 3 areas where trained young women can find employment—tailoring, computer work, and food preparation. They opened Grace Centre for counseling and training. They have ambitious goals, but so far, only the tailoring program has funds, and they have enrolled 30 young girls and women. There are funds to build the food preparation school and restaurant, a first for Kazungula! However, funds are needed for the equipment and training. Some computers have been acquired to date, but funds are needed for training. Trained graduates will be highly employable at the local customs offices, as well as tourist hotels and lodges around Livingstone.