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Burkina Faso Residents Lament Rise in Prostitution


Nightclub workers and prostitutes in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, say there has been an increase in sex workers recently. One 21-year-old woman says she sleeps with men to earn the extra money she needs to support her mother and siblings. Ricci Shryock reports from Ouagadougou.

Rabi Wadrago has a round, childlike face. As she sits in a smoky, unlit bar in Ouagadougou, she bashfully lowers her eyes and describes her life as a prostitute.

She began "going out" as she calls it, about two years ago. She says a friend told her how to get started in the business. Now she works as a prostitute one or two nights a month in the Burkina Faso capital.

It is easy to get men to approach her, she says. They are usually foreign men who want to be with a Burkinabe woman.

During the day, Wadrago works in a hair salon, but she is the oldest child in her family, and since her father left when she was younger, she is the main provider.

When money is tight, she will go to a nightclub to find a client. She says she can make up to 30,000 CFA francs, or about $70 US, with just one man.

Wadrago says she knows more and more women who are turning to prostitution as a way to make ends meet. She adds the prices of things like rice and bread keep going up, and most of the women are just trying to find ways to cope.

"If you have money, you are someone," she says and then adds "money is the paper that rules the earth."

As a club manager in the West African city, Leopold Ouadraogo, no relation to Rabi, says it is easy to spot the prostitutes who are coming into his bar at an increasing rate.

He says the women who are looking for clients are dressed in sexy clothes and they sit down at a table, order a drink and smoke constantly. The smoking is a signal to men, he says, that they can approach the woman, buy her a drink and leave together.

This May, New York-based Action Against Hunger issued a warning that as food prices continue to climb, people will begin to take drastic coping mechanisms such as prostitution and migration.

Burkina Faso is listed as one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Rabi Wadrago says she hopes to quit prostituting soon.

She tries to respect her body, and she is scared of diseases such as AIDS, but she quickly adds God can take her any day but while she is here she must manage.