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Rounded Up During The KICOSCA Games, Was This The End Of Commercial Sex Workers In Thika?

If you were very keen during the entire Kenya Inter-County Sports and Cultural Association (KICOSCA) week,there were virtually no chokora’s nor commercial sex workers ruling the streetsof Thika Town CBD as it has been the norm.

Thika Police launched a sting operation to rid of commercial sex workers (CSWs) from the streets ahead of the fourth edition and there were concerted efforts to flush off the street kids may be to prevent them from ‘kutuchomea picha’.

Though as the residents of this town appreciate these efforts by the authorities, pundits are now posing the question whether this move was permanent or just a PR exercise. Will this be the beginning of the end for these groups of people or should we brace ourselves for a rejuvenated lot that will hit back with vengeance?

Our crew was made to understand that the kind of fines that were meted on those CSWs who were arraigned in court were just laughable, nothing to deter any one of them from coming back to the streets.

For those who know about the scourge of the CSWs in Thika, especially those who traded their ‘wares’ along Kwame Nkrumah Road and Mama Ngina Drive near the Coca-Cola bottle, they can attest to me that these ladies were not CSWs but thugs. They were attacking and robbing people with impunity as well as liaising with motorcycle robbers who have been terrorising people near the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) offices.

We thank the police for raiding and closing down that brothel that was operating behind Pork Centre Butchery as it was a security threat as well as an ‘ulcer’ for the neighbouring traders.

The big question now is…  “Will we see these girls or chokora’s back on the streets?”

My answer is absolutely YES! Why? We just treated the symptoms but never bothered to check on the cause of the problem.

As we have been saying time and time again, the issue of the chokora’s and CSWs need a holistic approach with broad long-term measures that are geared towards empowering these people into self-reliance.It is upon us to work out solutions to this problem.

Time and time again, I have rubbed some people the wrong way whenever I criticised the idea of organising big ‘bash’ to feed the chokoras. I have always argued that this is a temporary remedy to a long-term problem… meaning that the problem will still remain here with us.

The solution to the chokoras is never in giving out foods, clothes and handouts. We need a more complex arithmetic that entails creating opportunities that are ‘chokora friendly’. The solution to CSWs is not in raiding and arraigning them in courts. The real solution is in coming up with a long-term programme that will empower those willing to change into self-reliance.

Remember, for every chapati or shilling that we give to a chokora, the more lucrative we make street begging and comparatively, the less lucrative we make working. This is bad, for we want these people out of the streets to work, not beg.

Secondly, this gesture rarely increases the quality of their lives. The few coins we give these children is at times spent on glue or drugs or end up financing crime. When we give money, food or clothes to these street families, we perpetuate a cycle of poverty and a strong incentive for them to stay on the streets. It actually locks them into the cycle of poverty they are trapped in.

Giving handouts to these kids is very wrong because this is a short-term solution that ensures that long-term answers are more difficult to implement. Yes, I know that it feels so cruel and heartless to look a needy child in the eyes and say no in a loud, firm voice. I know it feels charitable and okay, but there are alternatives.

Not giving money to the streetkids cuts out the easy option. Our generosity to these people at times do more harm than good. Sometimes even the most seemingly harmless gifts often enable terrible suffering. At some instances when we give these items to them, they later trade these items for glue and other forms of drugs.

So, why should we prioritise giving food and handouts to the street families over a comprehensive and permanent solution to the problem? I believe that there are better ways to give. As a society, we should pressurise the authorities to establish sustainable projects that result to positive change amongst the street families in minimally disruptive ways.

The imperative to not give money or gifts to street children doesn’t mean we have to turn our backs on them. No! We can donate to responsible NGOs and also look for creative new ways to be kind to children that won’t disrupt familial dynamics.

What happened to the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund that was established on March 11, 2003 by the then Ministry of Local Government through a Gazette notice No. 1558 by the Minister late Hon. Karisa Maitha?

This fund was intended to coordinate rehabilitation activities for street families, educate the public on how to handle Street children, mobilise resources and manage a fund to support rehabilitation activities at local authority level.

In the 2014-15 budget, the government set aside Ksh. 1.3 Billion to cushion the poor and vulnerable Kenyans from harsh times as well as Ksh. 300 Million for street families. Where is that money and how is it being used?

I believe that the aim of this money was to re-integrate street children into the public school system and society at large and therefore de-stigmatise them.

On the other hand, prostitution has become the order of the day in Thika Town. According to available estimates, over 500 women flock into the town from the neighbouring Juja, Gatundu, Gatanga, Maragua, Saba Saba, Murang'a, Masinga and Mwingi daily. You will find them standing by the walls of some buildings in the CBD every evening and early in the morning, waiting for clients. Some are even courageous enough to call out from afar.

It is also worrisome and of great concern that due to its high number of education institutions within the town, many nightclubs are now hosting youngsters so as to attract the clients. Some students are now strippers in some of these clubs with others being part-time prostitutes. Elderly men throng these clubs to hang up with girls the age of their daughters.School girls as young as 10, most of whom come from humble backgrounds, have also joined in the fray.

Then there is this new tread of late involving married couples cheating on their spouses during the day. Lunchtime sex has now become part of the day’s menu especially for the working married women who do not want to attract the suspicion of their spouses and public scrutiny. 

If you just do an impromptu weekday spot check at most ‘decent’ hotels in Thika during the day (especially between 10am-3:30pm) you will discover a 90% room occupancy rate. The most notorious days are Tuesdays and Thursdays due to their low activity levels and being least suspicious.

The main problem here is that Thika has a lot of money and alcohol at its disposal. Alcohol and prostitution as you all know go hand in hand. Many men like sex and search for it every week or even every day. We have these girls and women from poor background who will do anything to earn a living. Then we have the young college girls who need money or just want to finance their life by selling sexual service for money. Then there comes this other lot of married women who are ‘starved’ at home, want adventure or revenge their husbands’ infidelity or are living in this misconstrued notion of empowerment. The problem of prostitution here is quite complex and needs quite a great deal of wisdom to tackle it.

The authorities need to invest in multi-disciplinary expertise aimed at assessing the situation of each one of these CSWs so as to come up with tailor-made life plans and services for each case. They should also design programme activities that involve these girls and women as peer counselors and facilitators since their own life experiences make them potential leaders and advocates of development in their communities.

Programs must also be developed that pay close attention to their physical and mental health needs. Public health staff need to be sensitised to the specific needs of street families and CSWs as their situation of reflects the vulnerability of their social environment. It is therefore important to strengthen the capacity of the family and community to receive and take care of their young members. Their emotional needs should also be addressed.

Lastly, when their activities are integrated into community development programmes, it becomes easier to tackle the multiple causes of child and youth distress and to prepare a favourable environment for children and CSWs who decide to leave the street.

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