WEIGHT: 49 kg
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Read the article on The Daily Beast. Famed singer Edith Piaf lived in Belleville, as did many starving artists and musicians of decades past and present. They chat, giggle, and tease each other like schoolgirls. Some hug Louis Vuitton knock-offs close to them, while others clutch purses that show the wear-and-tear of daily use. By five in the afternoon, at just about every entrance to a building, the women seem to linger alone or in pairs. The service is offered in Chinese, as most of the women speak little French, or none at all.
While receiving medical attention, the sex workers also are given legal help in terms of understanding their rights and how to take care of themselves. Many of the women come by the center on Thursdays to meet with the social worker and the rest of the team for more in-depth discussions. It was during one of these meetings that I met some of the women.
When I arrived, they were all gathering around a table, looking at drawings for an upcoming brochure aimed at helping women who have just gotten into the sex trade. Her long black hair hangs past her shoulders, and she is wearing a heart necklace that catches the light as it grazes her pink top, along with a short skirt and black see-through tights.
She smiles often, which warms up her face. The other women agree with her: the caricature in the brochure looks too much like a girl, and too rebellious looking. They want a woman who is softer and sophisticated. Most of the women here are from the same northeastern Chinese region of Lioaning, part of Manchuria. Historically, it was one of the wealthier parts of the country with heavy industry and lots of jobs. Many of the women worked in factories that produced steel, chemicals or wires, or some may have worked in the smaller companies that dealt directly with the factories.
With children and elderly parents to look after, many women believe they will have a better chance of finding good work abroad. Upon arrival in France, they are told to claim asylum. With the French bureaucracy being what it is, it will take some time before they receive a response. In the meantime, they are safe from deportation, but are left without any legal working papers. However the women unravel this myth only upon arrival here. So if we ask around the community for work, people will say no.