Sierra Leone Development Initiatives (SLDI) is a not- for- profit organisation registered in London, United Kingdom. SLDI was formed to provide innovative and competent support to needy communities in Sierra Leone such as stimulating local development initiatives especially among the disadvantaged. SLDI’s aim to promote equality, social justice and human rights, in particular the elimination of exploitation and abuse of vulnerable underage girls and teenage girls (11-18 yrs) in the sex trade in Sierra Leone. SLDI was set up following a research that we conducted into the sex trade of teenage girls and women in the city of Bo Sierra Leone in 2014. The research findings were very alarming and enlightening. Out of the 400 participants in the survey, an average of 70% are between the ages10 and 20 years old, inclusive. Nearly all of the participants (95%) were homeless, destitute and drop out from mainstream education without any family support or support from elsewhere. As the majority of the people in Sierra Leone live in extreme poverty, underage and teenage girls are among the most vulnerable. The lack of access to essential services or the poor quality of these services for girls perpetuates poverty, deepens inequality and marginalisation.
The overall aim of SLDI is, therefore, to holistically support the underage and teenage girls in the sex trade in the city of Bo (the second largest city) In Sierra Leone to exit the sex trade and give them a second chance to rebuild their lives. However, as our survey demonstrated, lack of accommodation is one of the biggest barriers to exit the trade. As mentioned above, 95% of the respondents are experiencing housing problems. For the girls to be able to have a fresh start and escape physical abuse and violence, they will need to be moved from that environment. This is very important as they are more vulnerable when they do not have a place that is their own home. It is also noted in our survey that a significant number of respondents met with physical and sexual abuse due to them not having their own home.
The Restoring Hope Project, therefore, is to set up and establish a hostel, for underage and teenage girls in the sex trade in Bo city Sierra Leone, with the view to safeguarding and support them to exit the sex trade. Accommodation is the most fundamental need for a person exiting prostitution as it is the foundation for stopping sex work. The hostel will initially consist of a five bedroom property that will housed ten underage and teenage girls between the ages of 11 and 18 years old who are homeless, destitute, marginalised and are in the sex trade in Bo city, Sierra Leone.