This is the story of Kemirembe a 24-year-old sex worker in Bwaise Kimombasa.
“When I was 16, a woman picked me from my village in Bushenyi to work as a housemaid. I saw this as an opportunity because I wasn’t going to school. My parents were poor. All I had were the clothes on my back and two others in a black polythene bag. When we reached Kampala, she took me to the home in Kasubi.
I never saw that woman again.
At my newly found place of work, my boss had three kids. I woke up at 5 every morning to prepare the kids for school, prepared breakfast, cleaned the house, took care of the baby, washed dishes, prepared dinner, bathed the kids and put them to bed. I would sleep at eleven or midnight. This was my daily routine.
Whenever she came back from work, my boss would many times yell and hurl insults at me and ask me what I did all day, because to her, the house didn’t look that clean and the food I cooked didn’t taste good. Once, when I tried to talk back, she slapped me in the face and for the three months that I was there, she never paid me a shilling. One Sunday evening, I came back late from church, she threw me out of her house. I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t even have transport to take me back home, I didn’t even know which buses to take.
I was on the streets.
After a long search for a job, I got one in a restaurant. They paid me 2000 shillings daily and gave us a place to sleep. Thank God. I was there for about two years. The owner got broke and closed the restaurant.
I was back to the streets.
I roamed the streets at night. I pitched camp at restaurants to help wash dishes so that I could have all the left overs to myself. I slept on shop verandas or wherever I found.
I wasn’t the only one roaming the streets, we started to notice each other, I made friends with one of the girls. We shared our stories. We protected each other, another girl joined our group. That girl told us that she had heard of a place where girls make money in Bwaise. So we walked from Nakulabye to Bwaise.
That evening, we found many girls all dressed up, with makeup and wigs and one by one, men would show up, take them. We joined the group. That night, I was picked by two men each paid me 2500 shillings for the service I had given.
At first, it was better than being on the street. But then after six months, I got pregnant, I don’t know how that happened. I was careful to use protection. But some men tear the condoms. I don’t even know who the father of my child is.
Right now, I stay at a friend’s place with my boy. I pay her 1000 shillings per night. My boy is now four years. I have failed to take him to school- it is expensive. I make sure that I am on the streets by 7:00pm because I want to make enough for my child’s food.
Some days, you’ll meet a man, who on the onset looks like a sensible human but when you get to the lodge, he starts to beat you for no reason. Some will do things to you that I cannot even tell you. Look at the scratches on my face, these are from a fight with a man last night. These days, I am like a grenade I loose my temper easily. Some nights when I don’t make any catches, I move about aimlessly. I take a little alcohol to help me forget my problems. I feel overwhelmed when I have not taken a little drink. It calms me down.
You are asking me if my parents are alive? I don’t know. Let’s say I have no family, no one for eight years has looked for me. So now that I have told you my story, what is it going to help me?”
Good Lord, I didn’t see that coming. That was a punch in my face.
What am I doing telling these women’s stories? I feel like walking away. But I am comforted by the fact that from last week’s story, two organizations expressed interest in helping these women. You guys that promised had better be serious. The real gutters are down there.