Predators in Ngara

EAS Published on 12/11/2010

Young Rahima* could barely communicate in English when she first came to Kenya from a neighbouring country to pursue a course in tours and travel. She found solace in a girls’ hostel in Ngara — an area now synonymous with private student accommodation.

Fast forward to today, six years later and she is now married as a second wife to a man she met while at the hostel. Not every other girl in the hostel is as ‘lucky’ as Rahima. Some hook up with men, end up pregnant with no one to take care of them and often risk their lives at the hands of backstreet abortionists.

Night of carousal

Incidentally, Rahima says, life at the hostels is quite competitive and one has to stand out to be noticed by the men who are always hovering around the girls’ hostels.

She remembers one time when she and her friend almost got killed by the watchman while returning from a night of carousal. He mistakably thought they were thugs trying to sneak in by climbing over the gate. The watchman threw his rungu at them which narrowly missed them.

The man she is married to is old enough to be her father but is a ‘man of means’ so that more than makes up for the fact that she did not finish college.

As a rule of thumb, hostels offer breakfast and dinner with four or six girls sharing a room. They are meant to be a safe haven and most parents sending their children to the city colleges consider them a safe option — a home away from home for the young girls, most of whom are fresh from high school.

It helps that Ngara is situated near the college-district of the city, where many tertiary institutions have mushroomed.

Unfortunately, these vulnerable and naÔve girls have become a target for sexual predators, most of them older men. And it seems ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’.

Woman’s Instinct had a one-on-one with some of these young women who in search of identity and a few coins are playing into the hands of lustful older men. Most of these hostels serve as pick-up joints for men who prey on the gullible girls.

Edna stayed in the hostel for over three years and attests to the fact that indeed, sex is the buzzword in most of these hostels.

Says she: “On a regular evening over the weekend, you will find the latest models of cars parked outside the hostels. These men are heavy spenders and buy expensive gifts for the girls. My roommate had a TV and a home theatre system courtesy of the married man she was seeing.”

Like in most other institutions of higher learning, there are no defined rules on having electronics in the hostel. However, the men ensure they return the girls before 10pm or 11pm, which is the curfew time in most hostels. However, when late, they plead with or bribe the watchmen to allow the girls in.

Lisa is 20 years old, slim, chocolate-skinned and vivacious. She was introduced to drinking, smoking and hanging out with men by her roommate and keeps two ‘general friends’, both working and much older.

She says: “My parents never allowed my siblings and I to attend parties or go out to clubs. I was curious to know what that life was like, so I tried everything. But now I want to quit smoking.”

The girls that have been there for a while initiate the new comers and even offer to buy them free drinks and hook them up with rich men. The girls love it in Ngara — it is close to not only the colleges, but also the entertainment spots in town, and they can walk if they do not have money to take a taxi or matatu. The other hostel districts like Hurlingham and South B area have not been quite as successful.

As fate may have it, these girls, being young and naÔve, rarely use protection and, after being exposed to risky situations, are too scared to visit a VCT.

Unsafe sex

Some have regular boyfriends but, being agemates, chances are they can’t afford the comforts older men give. Add to that peer pressure, and a girl would have to be strong not to compromise. They end up keeping their boyfriends for love and the rich older men with the full knowledge that it is an exchange of money for sex.

The girls, like in any other institution, are also exposed to lesbianism, drugs and pornography because the girls are from different walks of life.

Mercy, a Christian, confesses that her first exposure to porn was actually in the hostel. Being a virgin, there was a lot of peer pressure for her to experiment with sex. Some girls either drop out of school to get married or their grades suffer. Others have been known to strut their stuff on designated streets along Ngara in the evenings, dressed scantily, as they wait for male clients.

They have patronised a popular hotel in the area, which is a convenient hook-up joint. Further, there are cases of girls having sex in parked cars outside this hotel according to a source who wished to remain anonymous.

Dr Gidraph Wairire, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Sociology and Social Work at the University of Nairobi, says this form of vice is not a crime as it does not break any legal rules, but it is a moralistic crime.

Says he: “A moralistic crime is one which violates the morals established by a society. In a case where the girls willingly offer their bodies for sex, then it’s a moral issue.”

Driven by greed

Dr Wairire feels these girls are not necessary driven by poverty given that their parents or guardians are able to send them to college. Often times it is adventure, greed or competition that motivates them. They want to be like their peers and need money to ‘live it up’.

Reform, says Wairire, begins with the girl as an individual — does she have focus in life and what are her goals? If the girls were more focused, they would be principled and not give in to negative peer pressure.

Asked why such an evil would thrive, Wairire says it takes a collaboration of different forces namely the proprietors, hostel guards and managers, all who were unwilling to speak out or enforce the regulations that protect the girls.

Offers Wairire: “The guards and hostel managers should take it upon themselves to tell the girls that what they are doing is wrong instead of condoning it passively. Tell the girls that having the good life takes a process — if they are patient enough to finish school, they will afford all that these men are offering. They must respect their bodies and learn to stand up for themselves.”

The hostel managers should also explore ways of keeping the girls entertained so that they can have clean safe fun.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Africa TV Stations
    Nov 24, 2011 @ 06:15:57

    As a person with a background in journalism, I find your blog right up my street, “Predators in Ngara Consolation in East Africa” I will keep checking for interesting additions to your blog,
    Thank you 🙂



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