Talk of the Town
I take a matatu from the Likoni ferry to the north coast. A couple waves down our vehicle, sending tongues wagging.
“These are the people who are ruining our girls,” says a woman in the seat behind me. Her companion concurs. We watch as the couple try to cross the busy road. They’re struggling because the man, who is white with thinning hair, is old enough to be the young black girl’s grandfather. She holds him up, steadying him; her face a mask. He walks unsteadily towards us and an uneasy silence falls on the matatu as they clamber in.
“Willing chick, willing chap,” the driver whispers while adjusting his rear-view mirror to get a better look at his new passengers.
Same Script, Different Cast
Dorothie Ogutu was orphaned at 13. She came to Mombasa in search of a better life, but ended up turning tricks in the redlight district when she was only 15 years old. That was 10 years ago, and she has now turned the corner in her life, but many others are not this lucky.
Nowadays, Dorothie is the Country Coordinator of African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA), a project of the sex workers education and advocacy taskforce (SWEAT), based in Cape Town, South Africa. The initiative is being implemented in Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nigeria and Malawi, although the latter two are not yet fully operational.
Dorothie’s core functions are building around human rights, giving a voice and a face to the sex workers’ many concerns, and training sex workers as paralegals. There’s a lot of unreported violence directed at sex workers and even when these violations are reported, they are rarely handled as serious offences and given the due consideration they deserve.
Membership of ASWA is open to all and they count people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities among their members.
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