Lupita is a volunteer in the community centre in La Merced which supports women in prostitution. She is from Mexico City and has just finished studying for her degree in psychology.

Tell me about yourself.
I was born and grew up in the east of Mexico City. I finished my degree in Psychology in the UNAM this year.

What are you doing now?
At the moment, I am doing my social service in the community centre in La Merced. I have been there for around 6 weeks and plan to stay there for 6 months as I have to do 480 hours of social service to graduate. My role in the centre is to attend to the psychological needs of the girls, giving them individual therapy sessions. However, I also support the other workshops that take place in the centre. I also go out to the streets, chatting with the women and inviting them to the centre.

What do you think you contribute in the centre and to the women?
I thought I would just be doing therapy with the women, however I have realised that the work is much more than just that. It is about accompanying the women, supporting them and getting to know them as people. It is also important for me to gain their trust as it is difficult to do anything if a person doesn’t trust you. This is what makes the centre different. It is not an institution, I see them as women just like me. I say “I see your situation, and it does not degrade you at all. You are still valuable.” I think this is important to be able to empower them and support them.

What is your vision for the women who use the centre?
The most important thing is that they are free, where they don’t have to be in the sex industry. I want them to be able to decide what to do with their bodies, their lives, and their children’s lives. I want them to feel valuable. Even if they get out of the area, if they do not feel their own power and potential it won’t make a difference. I want them to believe in the future they deserve. It is not the only thing they can do; they have abilities and talents to discover.

Do you ever worry about being there?
I grew up visiting these places, I know the area and I felt safe there before. However, I am realising that I am more vulnerable through the work I am doing with the women. I feel more insecure than before, mostly because the pimps and others who watch the girls don’t like what we do. Despite this I am excited and enthusiastic to learn and to meet more women, and for them to realise their power.

What do you see in your own future?
I want to finish my social service, graduate, and continue studying. Honestly, I would love to stay in the centre and to see it grow. I want to see more people concerned with supporting the women, and I know that I want to work in more projects like this in future.