Kings Daughters Build Better Lives with Bicycles


With the country’s high rate of unemployment, many Namibian women believe they have no alternative but to turn to sex work, despite the dangers, to feed themselves and their families. Katutura-based King’s Daughters has since 2006 been trying to offer them an alternative. With a small grant from the U.S. Embassy, King’s Daughters tripled their income-generating workspace, installed better security for the bicycles and parts they sell, and greatly expanded their practical job skills training for sex workers.

King’s Daughters had already been offering help to current and former sex workers in spiritual, health, and other areas of immediate need, but founder Esme Kisting recognized early on that the organization needed a long-term emphasis on jobs skills training to help “their ladies” move beyond sex work. In 2009, the Bicycle Empowerment Network of Namibia delivered 85 donated bicycles to King’s Daughters and trained six women on repairs, maintenance, and sales. Kisting convinced the shipping company to leave the bicycles’ shipping container with her organization as a makeshift workshop. Within six months, with their bicycle repair business booming and more sex workers turning to King’s Daughters for assistance, they needed to expand. She turned to the U.S. Embassy for help.

In 2011, King’s Daughters received a small grant from the U.S. Embassy, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The grant helped them expand their inventory of bicycles and spare parts for sale, purchase additional tools for the growing number of workers to use, bring their workplace up to required safety standards, and increase their marketing efforts. Kisting also negotiated a discounted rate on a second shipping container and used grant funds to turn the two containers into a customer- and worker-friendly shop, with triple the floor space and storage, improved ventilation, and reliable security.

Today, King’s Daughters is the go-to source for the people of Katutura for low-cost reliable bicycles to help them get to schools and jobs, rather than taking expensive buses and taxis. The organization has also partnered with a growing Katutura-based bicycle tour company to maintain their fleet. The organization has used its profits from the project to fund counseling, health training, support groups, and even a day care for the children of bicycle workers. Most importantly, the project has helped King’s Daughters prove to current and former sex workers that there are opportunities for them to support themselves beyond the streets.

While the PEPFAR Community Development Grants Program funds various community-based initiatives, they are currently seeking applications for projects that specifically assist Namibian Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Services to children (0-17 years) could include ensuring access to basic education, broader health care services, targeted food and nutrition support, including support for legal protection and legal aid, economic strengthening, training of caregivers in HIV prevention, and home-based care.

  • Successful grant proposals will show that the project has a strong community contribution and benefit, and will not rely on donor funding after one year.
  • Organizations must demonstrate strong community support and contribution.
  • Funding cannot be used for scholarships and school fees or to support private businesses or for-profit pre-schools or schools.
  • Budgets are up to $15,000 U.S. dollars.

For more information about the U.S. Ambassador’s Self-Help Program.