KENYA: Maureen Kiwinda, “It was not my desire to sleep with people to get a job”
Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
|“It was not my desire to lead a life of sleeping with people to get a job”|
NAIROBI, (PlusNews) – Maureen Kiwinda*, 22, came to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in 2003 to stay with her brother, a casual employee in the industrial area. She has also taken up casual employment, but told IRIN/PlusNews that handing out sexual favours was a regular requirement for getting work.
“I could not proceed with my education due to lack of school fees, so I came here and stayed with my brother for two years, but I left because he was not happy that I became pregnant.
“I later went to stay with a friend and started doing laundry work for people … but whatever I was getting from my work was too little to take care of my child. Also, I could not work most of the time because he was still too small and needed my constant attention.
“A friend of mine used to work at the EPZ [export processing zone – an industrial area established by the government in 1990 to boost Kenya’s export capacity]. I went there with her several times but I could not get a job.
“When I was almost giving up, she told me the truth and advised me to talk to one of the supervisors. She told me it would be difficult for me to get a job without giving something small, which I thought was money, but I later learnt the small thing was my body.
“At first I found it hard to comprehend, but I weighed living without knowing what tomorrow brings and having sex to get a job and I decided to give it a try.
“I have been doing it and I have been getting jobs frequently [but] I have paid the price, because now I am HIV-positive.
“The problem here is that you cannot stick to one partner. Even if you decide to get a job through sex, these supervisors are changed almost on a monthly basis, so you know you have to please each of them to survive.
“At times I feel guilty about what I am doing, knowing that I am HIV-positive, but I cannot tell my colleagues or even those who solicit for sex from me. I need food and I need money – what do I do?
“God knows it was not my desire to lead a life of sleeping with people to get a job. At times I feel sorry for myself and my friends, but that is the society we live in.”
*Not her real name