“Everyone knows me as the mama of the prostitutes in this area. I came here in 2000 after the death of my husband. He loved me. He pampered me. We had property together. I lost him to sickness in 1999 shortly after the birth of my son. My Husband’s elder brother had been hitting on me even when his brother was alive. This was his chance to inherit me as his wife. I refused. I thought that was shameful. He waged a war, took all my property threw me and my children out of the house” She said as I listened intently.
“I came to Kimombasa.
At first, I was embarrassed to sleep with men, but after months, I got used. I got my first child when I was 15. From my marriage I had four children, from here I got two more. So I have seven kids in total. My first two girls are married. I have a son that I gave birth to in 1990 dropped out of school recently, he was pursuing a law degree at Makerere university. We’ve completely failed to raise the school fees. So he is now working as mechanic and renting his own room away from here. He is trying to save up money so that he can go back to school. His dream of being a lawyer is still alive.
My son, that one you see there is in Senior 4, he is hardworking, he goes to church, he loves the Lord, I was worried for him when he joined a boxing club. My friends had told me that those boys in that boxing club are hooligans that all they do is smoke drugs, yet whenever he came back from practice, he was a better boy, he was cleaner, he respected me even more. He now has 4 medals from the boxing competitions. He makes me proud. I just hope that he can finish school. There is an organization that is taking care of his school fees.
Whichever girl stumbles onto this area, comes looking for the mama of the prostitutes (mama wa bayaye ). I take them in but I have rules – if you drink all the money that you make, I will can’t work with you, if you are not using protection- look, this box here is full of condoms an organization brings it to us every month and I ensure that they are on family planning.
Whatever organization comes in to help, I receive them. I get for them lawyers when they have been arrested on charges of ‘Rogue and Vagabond’. Yeah, police arrests them, charges them, so we have to get them out of jail. Sometimes there is a rapist lurking in the area. Last year there was one I reported him to police. I made sure that I got the girls to testify he was charged 25 years in prison. When they are sick, I assign one of the girls to go to Mulago to take care of them. When they die, we bury them. We buried one at the end of last year, she was trying to abort on her own. She died. Those who we don’t have families, we collect money and they take them to a cemetery. But sometimes when we have no money and they die, we abandon them in the hospital, we know that they will be taken to the mortuary and end up in the cemetery anyway. Now that there are national IDs, I am working towards seeing that each of them gets an ID because when they are arrested, it is easy get them out when they have IDs. I keep their deepest secrets, some of them are HIV+, when it is time to take their ARVs, I remind them. I solve their cases, sometimes they are fighting over men. Sometimes a man likes one particular girl and when he is tired of her, he goes to another. I try to explain to them that that is normal. Oh by the way, I have married off three girls so far, I attended their wedding ceremonies as their Senga. The men got them from here.
I have rooms in this area, they have double décor beds. You pay 1000 for a night. Some girls choose to sleep two on the bed so they pay 1000 shillings each. When they use my beds for business, the pay me 500 shillings for each session.
I am 48 now, I want to leave this business, but who will take care of these girls? As you can see, when I cook a meal, we share it. We are family. They keep coming, since 2005 when I started this small bar, I have had over 200 girls go through my hands, some stay for years, others for months, others get married and others die. Most of these women as you can see them are the forsaken of society, 90% have no families, those that have families can’t turn back. Their families don’t want them back, a lot of water has gone down the bridge. They feel like outcasts. You should be here when their children have been chased from school for school fees, this place is full of children, we let the kids sleep inside and we sleep on the verandas. However, I am worried, at 12, the girls want to join the trade. I tell the women that we have to fight to keep our children in school.
So when I leave, who will take care of them? Maybe that is my life’s mission. ”