With schools closed, old hookers are scared stiff of tight competition from young primary and secondary school girls.
In Umoja and Kayole, for instance, girls aged between 14 and 22 years prowl the pubs at night.
In Korogocho, they approach men in broad daylight and offer ‘services’ for a fee without batting an eyelid.
*Purity, a Class Seven pupil, has been a prostitute for the past one year at Nyama Villa in Kayole. The daughter of a sex worker, says she slid into the trade because her mum would bring clients to the house in broad day light.
“I have been raised by a single mum who has been in this industry for a decade. I used to hear her communicate with men on phone, saying ‘let us meet at Nyama Villa’,” she says.
Out of curiosity, Purity visited the place and found a parade of women waiting for men. Knowing that her mother made cash from men, the temptation to join the party was intense and that’s how she got in. Meanwhile, her friend, *Gladys, a Form One student, claims she has been in the industry for the past two and half years.
“This is where I get my pocket money and cash for school shopping,” Gladys reveals, saying it is a quick paying job. She ventured into the trade through a friend who introduced her to internet dating sites. “After dealing with internet men for six months, I decided to venture into it fully. I now find men in Umoja estate, where a number of girls my age also operate.”
*Peris, a Class Eight pupil in Mathare, was lured into the business when both her parents died. Her maternal aunt volunteered to be her guardian, only to turn around after two years and say she (Peris) needed to start hustling for her basic needs. With no idea what hustling entailed, she turned to her aunt who was a night-shift waitress at a hotel in town. Her aunt offered to introduce her to her job.
“I expected my aunt to take me to her workplace during the day, but surprisingly, we left at night. She took me to a bar (name withheld) in Huruma estate which, I shortly learnt had several rooms upstairs for commercial sex,” she recalls, sobbing. “She applied makeup on my face, forced me to wear a mini skirt, then ordered me to join other women who were parading themselves outside the bar. It was horrible. I just broke into tears.”
Peris says that later in the night, a man in his mid 40s picked her, took her into one of the rooms and forced himself on her despite her pleas. He paid her Sh300 for the ordeal. And her journey into the grim, dark world of prostitution began. Her story is no different from Sharon’s. The Form Two student in Kibra became a prostitute after her parents threw her out when she became pregnant, and left her to fend for herself and pay her school fee.
“I had taken my child to the clinic in the morning, but on returning home in the afternoon, neighbours told me that my parents had moved and left my belongings in the vacated house,” she recalls.
She had to seek refuge from a neighbour as she figured out how to survive. Then it dawned on her that prostitution was the only way out. She commenced business, charging men at Laini Saba and Makina between Sh100 and 200 for her services. This, she says, is how she has been paying her fee and rent since.
Evans Emasit, the director of Soweto Baptist Primary and Secondary School in Kibra, acknowledges that commercial sex work is real among school-going girls in informal settlements because of poverty and failure by some parents to provide for their children.
“Most of the cases I have dealt with involve children between Class Seven and Form Three. They are forced into commercial sex to meet their basic needs. We also have those who are pushed into prostitution by their parents to boost family income,” says Emasit, adding that he is currently supporting more than 20 students, whom he rescued from the trade. Among them are children for whom he has rented rooms and taken back to school.
Apart from poor parenting, social media and the influence of peer pressure, National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo, blames the vice on celebrities who live large but do nothing, apart from engaging in commercial sex with rich men.
“These women seem to have enviable lifestyles. They dress expensively, drive big cars, dine in nice hotels and live in nice houses. They are influencing young girls to engage in commercial sex because it appears like a means of making a quick shilling without sweating for it,” says Maiyo.