For our children – Sex Workers – Tanzania

Michelle, 22, has been a sex worker for four years.
She comes from Tanzania, Arusha. She moved to Nairobi six years ago in search of a better life after her mother died.

Her man left when she became pregnant of Isaac, now six and since then has been the sole provider of her boy. She also takes care of her sister’s daughter, Amina, who is nearly three and supports her two brothers who moved from Tanzania and are looking for work in a city that has an incredibly high unemployment rate. They believe that in Kenya they stand a better chance to find and a job.
Michelle relies on her youth and beauty and works as a prostitute in the bars and nightclubs of Nairobi, but not with out paying a high price for her choices.
She explains that being with out work is not a choice for her.
“How would I feed Isaac and Amina? Who would take care of my brothers who are unemployed?” She asks with an interrogative look in her eyes.
She tells of the risks involved in this work. Of the numerous times she nearly got arrested and the money she had to come up with to corrupt city council workers before they brought her in. In Kenya prostitution is illegal.
“The worst is when a client beats you and goes with out even paying. Sometimes men don’t want to use condoms. If you refuse, sometimes they get angry, they beat you. And then take advantage.”
Michelle’s’ best friend is Jennifer who is also a sex worker. They are neighbours and share a compliancy that makes the hardships of the job a bit easier to suffer.

Jennifer is 32, and has been a sex worker for over three years.

She comes from Eldoret, in the Rift Valley. She moved to Nairobi in 2000, when her father who took care of her passed away unexpectedly.
At the beginning life in Nairobi was unbearable as she struggled to make enough money to go by. Eventually she started a small hairdresser saloon that for sometimes eased the daily financial pressure.
During this period she gave birth to Jeremiah who is now nearly three years old. But with the blessing of her new baby came another unexpected tragedy, the death of her man, Jeremiah’s father.
In the turn of a moment she was alone, the sole bread provider for her baby.
Business in the hair saloon was going from bad to worst as she struggled to come up with the numbers to pay rent, feed Jeremiah and meet daily costs of life in a fast developing Africa city.
“I was introduced to prostitution by a regular client of mine. She would come and get her hair done. One day she told me what she did for a living; she said that it was a way to make enough money; sometimes even plenty”.
To this day Jennifer believes she has little choice but to keep on working as a prostitute in downtown Nairobi. She sees no other way as she shivers at the thought of being evicted from her one small room on the third floor of a crumbling building in the crime infested area of Kariobanghi.
“Of course I would like to save enough money to start a small business. But the reality is that I do this because I have to. We have no other choice, we do this because of our children” she explains.

Siegfried Modola is a photojournalist based in Kenya, contact Katherine Miles at Shoot the Earth if you would like to commission him.

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