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Ex-Commercial Sex Workers in Thika To Get Sh. 2.6m To Start Life Afresh.

A File Picture of Commercial Sex Workers
An church in Thika has given a Shs.2.6 million grant to over 40 reformed commercial sex workers to start businesses in a bid to reduce their numbers in the town. Under the ‘Rudisha Mama Nyumbani’ Initiative, 36 rehabilitated women and 5 men will now settle down to businesses of their choice after they benefit from the start-up capital.

Pastor Gloria Azikiwe of the New Hope Kenya said that they were working to economically empower them so as to enable them leave these ways and never come back.

Speaking to Thika Town Today over the weekend, Azikiwe said that it is sad to see the cycle of sex work being passed from parents to children. It was their prayer to stop the ill from being passed from one generation to another. Most of these girls, she said, came to the streets due to abject poverty adding that majority of them were single mothers who found it difficult to fend for their families alone. 

"The girls are not in the streets by choice. Most of them have been forced by circumstances though a few are here as a result of peer influence,"said Azikwe.

“We want to impact the society where it hurts them most and there is a need, as a church, to reach out to the vulnerable in society and empower them both spiritually and economically. We are therefore giving them capital to start small businesses which will be able to sustain them.”

She added that they have been requesting the reformed sex workers to write to them explaining their reasons to leave the trade as well as giving a business plan of the ventures they wished to establish. Some of the business proposals included the will to open up small shops, groceries, cereal shops and hawking small wares in town.

Among the reformed sex workers was a 32-year man who said he has been doing the business for five years but was now tired of police harassment and stigmatisation by the community. He said that he required Shs.50, 000 to establish a cereals shop.

Kiambu-Murang’a Commercial Sex Workers Union spokesman Mr. Barack Ondieki said that the 'Rudisha Mama Nyumbani' programme was meant to benefit only those who were willing to leave the trade. He added that they would link the beneficiaries to banks so that they could access loans later.

“We are focusing on health advocacy and economic empowerment to our members so that they can have a quality life,” he said.

One of these women who talked in a position of anonymity said that besides being desperately poor, the society shunned them.
“Most people hate us because they think we are not part of the living society. They feel we are not supposed to be among them because we are here. They discriminate us. While some still take us to be human, majority don’t really respect and regard us as human,” she said.

She added that majority of the commercial sex workers wanted out of the business but poverty drove them into the business.

“Of course this is no life. This is no life. As I’m talking to you I’m cold. I feel like crying. No life,” said a second woman. 

“If we don’t get help we don’t leave prostitution and government spends more. In this trade, one can have HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases that are related to prostitution. Now government spends more in providing health care for people that are contracting those diseases,” she added.

Prostitution is believed to be the world’s oldest profession, but understanding the size and scope of this 'economy', and the methods and actors involved in this trade, is still a murky endeavour.  It is critical for policymakers to ask themselves about the forces that compel someone to engage in this underground commercial sex business. 

Desperate to escape the life of poverty, majority of these people find themselves in the streets trading flesh for money. Some of these women are recruited at nightclubs, strip bars, high schools, college campuses, and neighborhoods and streets known for prostitution, as well as via online and social media channels. In other cases, women who are already involved in commercial sex work, or are looking to get involved, ask men to protect and care for them in exchange for money.

Pimps who recruit these girls typically use a variety of psychological methods of manipulation to persuade recruits to conduct sex work, such as flashing money around, seducing them, entering into romantic relationships, convincing them that they may as well make money if they’re already having sex, or having other female employees sell the idea. 

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