“Tuko Digital sasa”. Kenyan S3X workers open WhatsApp group for Their Customers

Commercial sex workers in Kenya continue to grapple with the lasting impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the government easing restrictions. Many have been compelled to explore alternative avenues to sustain their livelihoods….CONTINUE READING

In response to the challenges, some sex workers have embraced digital transformation by forming WhatsApp groups under the guidance of seasoned individuals in the industry. Anne Makau, a 47-year-old with 19 years of experience, now leads one such group across various social media platforms.

Makau reflects on the hardships brought about by the pandemic, revealing that some workers left the trade, returned to their hometowns, or resorted to breaking families to survive. Amid these difficulties, she recognized the need for innovation to endure in the city where the sex trade faced significant setbacks.

The adverse societal reactions led to incidents of violence against sex workers, with two fatalities reported in Garsen and Bura towns. Faced with an increasingly insecure environment, Makau and her peers decided to form a group of veterans to explore alternative survival strategies.

To address these challenges, the group initiated a WhatsApp community in December, requiring a membership fee of Sh500 and a monthly contribution of Sh300, which contributes to a collective savings fund for various expenses.

Makau explains that clients now contact group leaders, who then assign sex workers to clients for home services or companionship in hotels. The group ensures transparency by informing clients about service costs and other requirements. To promote safety, the sex workers are provided with free test kits, particularly for clients who refuse to use protection.

The new business model has transformed the streets, providing a safer environment for sex workers. Caroline Litei, a participant in the initiative, highlights the improved safety and the ability to avoid confrontations on the streets for clients. She notes that the current approach is more secure, allowing sex workers to operate during the day, and affords them a level of anonymity compared to the pre-Covid era.

Moreover, the collaborative effort has fostered a sense of community among the sex workers, creating a supportive environment for personal and business growth. Contributions to the group’s savings fund enable members to borrow money for entrepreneurial endeavors, reflecting their collective aspiration to transition out of the sex trade and establish stable family lives like other women.