Clinton honours an everyday Namibian hero

NAMIBIAN Esmie Kisting has rewritten the history books by earning a medal of honour from the United State of America for her efforts in rehabilitating commercial sex workers.

She becomes the first Namibian to inscribe her name on the history books for such a glamorous award which also brings hope to commercial sex workers view with a lot of scepticism by the society for a long time.

Kisting, who has been fighting most her life to bring light to the ladies of the night and also combat human trafficking in the world, was conferred with a Hero Acting To End Modern-Day Slavery Award’ by US secretary of State, Hilary Clinton this year.

The award was given to recognise her work as Executive Director of King’s Daughters Org, a Non Governmental Organisation for the rehabilitation of commercial sex workers in Namibia.

“This award is presented to Esme Kisting by the United States Department of State, in recognition of her passion and courage in assisting women to leave the commercial sex industry, her personal investment in their rehabilitation, her provision for opportunities for another chance in life, and her efforts to advocate for the protection of all women in commercial sex, “the inscription on the award conferred to her read in part.

An elated Kisting says she is honoured to receive such an award and is eager to continue her battle against human trafficking by sensitising sex workers on the dangers of possible trafficking.

Drug syndicates and human trafficking incidents have been reported in Africa targeting commercial sex workers in countries including Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia.

“Yes, indeed trafficking in persons is a big problem. In fact, after drug and arms trafficking, is the largest source of income for organised criminal syndicates worldwide.

“King’s Daughters Organisation focuses on public awareness campaigns and workshops with commercial sex workers to warn about the dangers of trafficking and also about the dangers of prostitution, as a preventative measure in the context of trafficking in persons,” said Kisting.

King’s Daughters Organisation has been working with other organisations including Council of Churches Namibia (CCN) United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other sponsors to conduct public awareness campaigns in the border-towns of Namibia in 2010

The medal was bestowed in recognition of her efforts in 2011, making her the current holder of such an accolade in Namibia and in the world.

“We are in good communications and networking with Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and receive valuable guidance from them,” said Kisting.

Born in Rehoboth Namibia, and worked at FNB for 16 years she has been living as a single mother since 2005 in a car accident that claimed her husband and has been finding solace and inspiration in Christianity.

Kisting completed a counseling training course in 2006 and started her humanitarian work with a small group of commercial sex workers, with the assistance of the Council of Churches (CCN).

Kisting says her organisation has a mandate of changing the lifestyle and stereotypes associated with commercial workers.

“I’m the Executive Director of the King’s Daughters Organization and we strive to care of the women caught in the cycle of poverty, prostitution, and exploitation. We also educate the women and men on the dangers and risks associated with commercial sex work. We also focus on educating the public and addressing potential victims of trafficking, as a prevention effort, through school outreach programs and awareness campaigns. We empower the commercial sex workers through skills training and income –generating trainings, in order to help them to earn an income in a decent way, instead of selling their bodies,” says Kisting.

Commenting on the plight for women in Namibia and Africa in general, Kisting said women are still finding it difficult to access opportunities unlike their male counterparts.

She believes women in Africa are not empowered enough and still need to be educated about the problem. Statistics show that more than 800 000 Africans, most of them female, are victims of human trafficking underscoring the need to educate them on the hazards as an essential starting point.

“I felt quite overwhelmed that moment when she handed me the award and congratulated me. In my heart I gave God all the glory and honor for such a blessing from Him especially, because Hillary Clinton, in her capacity as first lady worked hard herself to make the TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act) known, after President Bill Clinton signed it in year 2000. Yes, indeed it feels good to be the only Namibian to receive such an honour. I realized that moment that God is indeed an Awesome God,” says Kisting.

Most of the organisation’s operations are carried out here in Windhoek, and the sensatisation programmes are carried out at Namibian border towns. Within her experiences she has toured, USA in 2007, 2011 and UK in 2009. Kisting believes it is never easy balancing out between being a familiar person and working for the commitment and sometimes the going gets tough but the work has to be done.

“I try to stay in close communication with the boys by checking in with them about how their day was and we always share with each other about the challenges and lessons learned during that day. We have a specific night in the week called family-time. One week we do bible-study and then the following week we just relax and at times watch a movie or just tell what we appreciate about each other.