Mtwapa is known for its flamboyant night life.It is one of the major tourists at the Coastal Province of Kenya, both local and international. Unlike many other towns in Kenya Mtwapa comes to life during the night. Everyone can be seen going about their own business; even the vegetable vendor.Talk of a 24 hour economy in a mall area found in Kilifi County.
However some businesses being transacted here are raising eyebrow: sex work and sale of narcotics. Meet these two ladies from Mtwapa.
‘People in the neighbourhood know me as Awori. I dropped out of school when I was in Standard 7.I was caught with a stash of bhang. That led to my expulsion. I started fending for myself when I was 14. I was a drug dealer and user I used hashish, bhang and cocaine. My cousin advised me to join sex work since she thought I am beautiful. She said I could sell my body to white men. I agreed.’
Wanjiku on the other hand confidently says that she is a sex worker. She claims she started that job when she started doing drugs.
According to the 2012 UN report 230 million people are using drugs in the world. This means 1 out of 20 is a drug user. The Lancet says that in every 20 persons within the age of 15-64, one is a user. Many times the user is a man. their female counterparts are catching up.It is said that the number of females using drugs has risen by 3% from 2012-2013. Mtwapa is known to harbouring such. Taib Abdi-Rahman is the co-ordinator of a correctional facility , Reach Out Center Trust.
‘There are 1500 women at the Coast who are drug addicts. They used to be in hideouts. Right now they are bold enough to get out and buy their own drug doses to satisfy their appetite. They used to send their spouses but some don’t trust their partners any more. Peer pressure has also contributed to this growing number of women using narcotics. Bad culture has led to more women taking to mnazi, a local Coastal brew,’ explains Taib.
Awori, a mother of one is HIV+ is a mother of one. She says that her family despises her. She explains bitterly that her only son hates her because she is an addict and a sex worker. Awori says she fights a lot with her family.
‘Once I did not have money to buy drugs. I was feeling restless and uneasy. I decided to sell my sofa set, but my mother refused. So I poured paraffin on the sofa set and threatened to burn the seats. My reported the incidence to the police and I was locked up,’
Drug users who do sex work are at high risk of contracting the HIV virus. Taib says that their minds are unstable are they are at risk of being involved in irresponsible sexual behavior.
Wanjiku agrees with Taib. She says that when she uses drug she has this unexplained good feeling. She says she feels that amepona. This is a Swahili term that means someone has been cured of a disease. Wanjiku adds that she sleeps with any passerby to get money to buy drugs even when they do not want to use protection.
Awori says that when she is looking for that extra shilling her clients treat her badly especially when they know she is intoxicated with the narcotics. She says they even offer lower prices and do not opt for protection. She adds that she feels disrespected .She says that she tries her best to stop the vice but always relapses.
Beatrice Munyuri is a Community Health Worker who works with an NGO known as SOLWODI. Munyuri gives advice to these girls and helps asks to look for alternative ways of fending for themselves. She says that she understands it is not easy to stop using drugs but asks them to reduce their intake daily. She adds reducing the intake gradually reduces chances of withdrawal symptoms.