In some hotels in Downtown Nairobi, Commercial Sex workers Part with Sh800 for business security

By Monicah Mwangi

Prostitution has for a long time been seen as an illegal business in the country but a huge number of women have ventured in it and taken it as their full time career. There is no clear figure of how many prostitutes there are in Kenya mostly because most of them operate secretly and barely disclose their work.

When the word prostitution is mentioned, everyone thinks of Koinange street unless one has been on Luthuli avenue at night. This is the street where the business is currently booming. It’s usually a nightmare for a man to go through this street alone past 10.00 p.m. The prostitutes lineup along the street and if one is not careful they drag them to some upstairs bar where they drug and rob them off.

Some bars on this street have taken advantage of the situation and have gone as far as recruiting prostitutes to operate in their clubs and in return get their rooms fully packed throughout the day.

Commercial sex workers

We recently visited one of these bars to get first hand information on the situation. I had been alerted that women get cold reception here so I requested a male friend who had visited the place in the past to accompany me. On entering the bar we notice there is a woman on each of the tables, smartly dressed. We settle at the counter and within no time a man appears and greats my male friend by name. He is the manager of the downtown bar and they had been to the same school. On serving us he left and now a woman, dressed in tight blue jeans and a red top sets in.

She is one of the recruits in the bar. After along idle talk, Joyce, not her real name, slowly opens up and tells us how she joined the place. “I had been married for four years but we had a lot of disagreements with my husband and we ended up separating.”

With 2 children to take care of Joyce went to their rural home in Kirinyaga but life was not easy. “There was no one to rely on to bring food on the table; I had to do it myself.” With pain written on her face she remembers how she lost his son to pneumonia for lack of money to get proper treatment.  “I did not have the money to buy him medication,” she says.

During the burial, her long time friend, Joan, not real name, approached her telling her she had a job opening for her. She was so happy that she packed the same night and together with her daughter left with Joan to Nairobi the following morning. “She gave me encouraging words saying how hard life is but it was upon us to be harder,” she remembers.  “We got to Mwiki in the evening and Joan left us saying she had a night shift at work,” Joyce says.

After a week of staying indoors, Joan told Joyce what she does and told her if she was interested she will introduce her and show her how it is done. “I decided to take the risk and that’s why I am here.” Joyce does not take alcohol and she attends church service every Sunday. Though she does not like what she does she says it’s a job and it feeds her and her daughter and sometimes gets something to saves. “On a good day I can take home Ksh2000, not many people earn that much out there,” she joke and laughs loudly. She however notes that like any other business there are some bad days, “today is one of the bad days, I have only had one customer and the next shift is almost coming in.” She turns to my male friend and attempt to be ‘nice’ to him. “This is how we work here, u have to be very pleasant, smart and patient.” She says she likes it there because there is security, “there are no police or city council askari’s running after us.”

She adds that the management of the bar did a good job to introduce the initiative, “we all benefit after all, we feed ourselves and we bring them business.” She tells us she has about 10 regular clients who would not talk to any other prostitute in the bar. Though she moved out of Joan’s house, they still work together with and share a lot. On her part, Joyce says she uses protection adding that there is nothing she fears like being HIV positive. “If a client insists on sleeping with me without a condom I simply let them go.”

A commercial Sex worker

I leave Joyce to try her luck with my friend and joined the manager to see if I would learn something.
To join the place, Njoroge, the manager says one has to be well known by the old staff, have a national identity card and pay a registration fee of Ksh800. “This is to ensure that no client loses anything when they get to the room.”

He says that their women are well behaved and they don’t steal from customers. A room here costs Ksh200 and few people take more than 1hr in the room. There are 10 rooms in total and the club is open 24hrs with prostitutes coming in in 2 shifts, “there is the day and the night shift but they alternate after every week, they claim there are more jobs at night than during the day,” Njoroge says. The club currently has 18 registered prostitutes


Young Innovators show case their products

Young Innovators show case their products


For the first time in the history of the country, a youth talent development conference was held in Nairobi last week. The three day conference saw talented youths , some of them student,  exhibit their products for the world to see at Nairobi School.

Among the exhibitors was Stadi Za Maisha Educational Trust (SZMET), a charitable trust and non-profit making organization whose tent attracted a crowd. In the middle of it was Edward Birgen who is busy connecting some wires for an electronic car-tracking device he invented.

20 year old Birgen has mounted simple wires to a worn-out radio casing, which has been fixed with nine gear wheels, three motors and a mobile handset to come up with the device which he says can be used to switch off the car wherever it is.

“Whenever a stolen car is driven at a certain speed,

20 year old Edward Birgen with a car tracking device he has invented

the gadget sends blank message to the phone, informing the owner to call back to switch off the car, making the thieves to abandon it,” he says.

Since the young man has no car, he uses the gadget as his door sensor and security lights whenever he is away as well as switch on and off his radio.

Birgen, who sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) at Sambut High School in Uasin Gishu in 2010 did not perform well but he had an interest in physics subject.

“I scored a mean grade of D+ but i knew i could do something out of my interest in electronics,” he says. Birgen’s best topic in physics was Photo Emissive Cells and Study of Transistors in form four and which he thanks for what he has done so far.

Birgen who is currently under the Stadi Za Maisha program hopes to advance more on the device, make many more of them and make a living from his innovation. “I want this to be my business where i will help stop car-jacking as i make money,” said a confident Birgen.

Birgen who has been a radio repairer believes he has what it takes to   transform the device in a way that it can be able to track a stolen car,switch it off and lock in the occupants. To complete the device, Birgen dug into his pocket Sh3,000 and used his personal mobile phone.

Edward Mukua,

Fr. Richard Quinn, Stadi za maisha head Trustee with Edward Mokua, the Program Director

the program Director for Stadi Za Maisha says if Kenya want to achieve the Vision 2030 goals, innovative talents need to be looked out and appreciated. “We need creative minds like that of Birgen to get to where we want to be and get rid of  poor quality ‘Chinese products’ which have overcrowded our markets,” Mukua said.

Another innovator in the tent is Paul Kihuha, a class eight dropout and a reformed drug addict. “I smoked bhang and even had a taste of cocaine for 4 years but thanks to my christian parents who put some sense in me to get me out of drugs,” Paul remembers.

After rehabilitation, Paul spent days locked in the house and it was at that time when he was trying to find himself that the idea of innovation hit him. “I made a smoking robot  and i realized i was sleeping on a big talent,” he says.

A determined and courageous Paul walked out into the sober world with one thing in mind, proving his abilities. “I knew i could do much more even without much finances,” he says. He started looking for old metals and within 4 short days, Paul had managed to put so much together and he came up with a video camera crane which he had for the exhibition. 

Paul has since made 3 more cranes which he hires out to individuals or organizations  shooting movies or music videos. “I charge Sh3,000 to hire out a crane for 24 hours with an addition of Sh1,500 if i am to be there to operate it,” he tips.

He also prides of another innovation he calls shoulder cam, “this is a camera stand which can be worn and one moves around with it,” he explains as he puts it on. Though he says he made it for own purpose, the 24 year old believes there is some market for the same.

Paul Kihuha a camera crane inventor explains to Education Minister Sam Ongeri how it operates. Photos/Monicah Mwangi

Paul, who doubles up as a musician is currently working under Stadi Za Maisha to up his game.

Mokua says theirs is to look out for gifted and talented youths to nurture and encourage them to utilize their capabilities. “Our primary strategic goal is in line with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All Goals (EFA). Stadi za Maisha Educational Trust advocates and enhances positive change on behavior practices and attitudes and creates awareness on social and health care issues, as we nurture and grow talents,” Mokua said.

He however points out that Kenya lacks measures and procedures for identifying gifted and talented children. “Many gifted and talented persons may have been wasted in our systems and this translates to immense loss for our economy,” he says.

Paul Kihuha with the video camera crane.

Stadi za Maisha Educational Trust which is run by trustees and religious partners  has been working in collaboration with other stakeholders in an effort to develop identification tools, instruction materials and relevant education and training programs for Kenyan children and youth. “We have partnered with the Ministry of Education, KU, KIE,Kise, and JKUAT in helping our youths develop their talents,” Mokua concluded.

The effectiveness of Stadi Za Maisha’s programs encompasses six concepts among them identification and screening, assessment and categorization, mentorship and placement.  “We do all this by awareness through the DO’s office in a certain area,” Mokua points out. Upon identification, gifted and talented learners are offered special services to help them maximize their potential.

The program has been in Nairobi and parts of Mombasa but plan to move to all parts of the country is in the pipeline.

Trendy Mums

Trendy Mums, For your pregnancy and nursing requirements,

By Monicah Mwangi

There is nothing more stressful in a pregnant woman’s life than the wardrobe. This is the time when one gets weighty and experiences problems finding something fashionable and smart for any occasions; be it casual or office wear. When Nyawira Maranga got pregnant 2 years ago, she thought it would be a smooth sailing, but the period proved otherwise. “I was never smart and could not get any one-stop shop where i could get maternity outfits in town,” remembers Nyawira.

Josephine Awino, an attendant at Trendy Mums

She somehow managed the whole period with only five outfits but she promised herself to change the situation for other pregnant mothers who want to maintain their fashion. “That’s how i started Trendy Mums, a place where expectant mothers can come for maternity clothes,” Nyawira says.

Trendy mums is a place where all kinds of maternity wear are stocked, “woman working in the corporate world experience the most problem since the little which can be found out there in the market can only be classified as casual,” says Nyawira. At Trendy Mum, there are Maternity Skirts, trousers and blazers, tops and even leggings.

Nyawira also stocks Hospital panties meant to support mothers sanitary towels after birth. “Any woman who has had a baby will tell you the stress they go through after birth when everything is messy and cannot wear panties while in hospital,” Nyawira says. The disposable panties helps hold the pad and give the comfort a woman needs at that period. Together with her support team, Nyawira delivers the items at the clients destination on request, be it in hospital or home.

Breastfeeding in public has also been a great challenge for mothers which is another issue Nyawira has been out to tackle. “I thought there could be a better way of women to breastfeed without popping out their breast in the open and

The breast feeding apron

that’s how i came up with a nursing apron which one wears when nursing and has a penetration for the baby to breath,” said Nyawira. She also sells cotton nursing bras and pregnancy journals. Nyawira who was an aspiring doctor says for the last 4 months, the market response has been overwhelming and will want to have more than one Trendy Mums in the near future. She says she got the passion from her one year old daughter, “were it not for her, maybe i could never have ventured into this,” she points out.

Increased Cesarean Deliveries, who is to blame…

 Increased Cesarean Deliveries, who is to blame…?

By Monicah Mwangi

At one time, most babies were born by vaginal birth, which in some cases caused complications both for the mother and the newborn, which led to a high mortality rate.

Cesarean births were only performed in emergency situations and most of those were the classical cesareans that had more complications.With time, cesarean births became much safer with improved medical facilities and highly trained personnel.

In the recent past there has been a gradual increase in cesarean births all over the world, most of them noted in urban settings.There are many reasons why a health care provider may feel that a woman needs to have a cesarean delivery. Some cesareans occur in critical situations and are used to prevent critical outcomes for both the mother

A C-Section should only be done when vaginal delivery puts in danger the life of the mother or the unborn baby

and the infant while others maybe elective.

The rise of the C-Section deliveries have been raising questions on whether its due to medical necessity or rather its motivated by the fact that C-sections are more profitable for doctors and hospitals.

According to Dr. Joseph Karanja, an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at University of Nairobi, the impression that C-Sections are on the rise is real. “Women can now access medical care than before which is one of the reasons why the number of C-Sections done has gone up,” he said.

doctors pull the baby after a CS

He said there is a great worry where Hospitals and Doctors take advantage of C-Section to benefit themselves since its more profitable than a normal delivery.

Meet Ann, a 27 year old mother of a 1 year old boy. She had been attending clinics in one of the ‘big’ private hospitals in Nairobi for the whole of her pregnancy period. All tests were in place and was set for a vaginal delivery and that’s all she and the husband had budgeted for.

This was until that day when she checked in for the delivery. “The labor pains began and as expected I was rushed to the hospital where I stayed for 5 hours before my doctor said my baby was tired and under pressure and I needed a C-Section as a matter of urgency or I would deliver a flat baby,” she remembers.

Having carried a pregnancy for the whole term, no woman would take such a threat so she and her husband hurriedly signed for the surgery to protect the life of their unborn baby.

According to Ann, the cost of the delivery went up four times more than what they had budgeted for. “My husband went through hell borrowing money from friends to foot the bill which went upto Ksh250, 000,” she says.

Ann’s story reflect that of Faith who was delivering her second child. Despite having delivered her first child the normally, her doctor said she had complications and had to undergo a CS.

A newborn baby.

“I was made to belief my baby was in danger citing some medical terms I did not care to understand at that moment.

I had to be rushed to the theatre to safe my baby’s life according to my doctor,” Faith says. She also paid a huge sum of money and she now says C-Sections have become a big business in Kenya.

There is however another group of mothers who regard a caesarean delivery as painless way of having a baby despite the complications associated with the surgery.

This according to Dr. Karanja is another worrying impression which has become common with the modern women who he describes as ‘too posh to push’. “We know the risks of an optional C-Section but some mothers come to us demanding it and we are left with no option,” tipped the doctor.

One such women is Faith Gachanja, a 28 year old mother of 2 who chooses C-Section as her way to deliver. “Whats the need of going through all the pain while i can have a painless delivery?”, she asked. Faith says she want 4 children all of whom she plans to undergo CS despite doctors putting the limit of safe C-Sections at 3.

“The more the number of CS deliveries, the higher the risks,” warned Dr. Karanja.Though he says history has put in record the highest number of C-Sections done in one woman at 15, Karanja says it would be better if one gets a maximum of between 2 and 3 children through surgery.

Multiple Caesarean sections are more likely to have problems with later pregnancies. Dr. Karanja recommends that women who want larger families should not seek Caesarean section as an elective.

Jane Muthoni who also chose C-Section said her decision was motivated by the fact that she had an option of deciding when her baby would be born. The doctor say this is usually another problem since most women are never sure on the date they conceived and they would end up getting pre-mature babies.

The child is also exposed to risks like retention of fluid in the lungs can occur if not expelled by the pressure of contractions during labor. “Pre-term delivery is also possible if due date calculation is inaccurate,” the doctor said.

There is also the risk of higher infant mortality  in c-sections, “the risk of death in the first 28 days of life has been cited as 1.77 per 1,000 live births among women who had c-sections, compared to 0.62 per 1,000 for women who delivered vaginally,” Karanja calculated.

Pumwani maternity hospital where a C-Section delivery costs as low as Sh8,000 compared to private hospitals where the sames costs Sh250,000 and above.

Expectant parents must be made aware that a caesarean delivery is not a harmless option and that like all surgeries, it carries risks to mother and child. Among the risks cited by doctors are among them injury to other organs, excessive bleeding, wound infection and a prolonged healing period compared to normal delivery.

Unfortunately it would be impossible to formulate policy that could successfully separate bogus C-section remmendation from those that are medically required.

Medical ethics requires that doctors should provide more comprehensive information to expectant mothers about what their options are. That can be buttressed by greater awareness among patients.

Steam upholstery cleaning

By Monicah Mwangi

Among the most challenging activities in our homes are carpet cleaning, seats washing and also mattresses. More likely than not many people prefer a change of seat covers for lack of cleaning means and mattresses get worn out without being cleaned.

A US based firm has started technology-based upholstery cleaning service that uses steam from hot water to soak and extract dirt form carpets, seats and mattress.

The company uses specialised equipment to inject steam from water heated at high temperatures into upholstery then extract it immediately and leave them almost dry. The equipment reduces the amount of time required to clean a house and also the amount of time that carpets and seats take to dry from days to hours.

Robert, the director of 200 Degrees connects some of the machines he uses in carpet and sofa sets cleaning

Of the 100 per cent steam injected into the carpets or seats, less 10 per cent moisture content is left and hence the amount of time they require to dry is reduced from days to between three and four hours,” said Robert Okubo operations director 200 Degrees.

We joined them in one of their assignments where with the help of his employee, Tony Ndungu and son Mario Okubu they cleaned a 4 bedroom apartment in a span of 3 hour leaving all carpets and seats dry. “There is a lot of dirt in our houses and we are here to simply take it away,” Okubu said.

Okubo’s firm has so far invested Sh1 million in equipment that it will use to clean, carpets, seats with padding and fabric or leather covers, car interiors and even mattresses.

200 Degrees – owned by Okubo and his partners – has done residential and commercial property cleaning in Maryland US for the last ten years and received accreditation from different domestic monitoring agencies. “When I went to the US I started working for a carpet cleaning company where I stayed for 3 years before starting my own.”

The steam cleaning process entails use of cleaning agents and a high-pressure blast of steam to remove dirt and grime from different materials and surfaces.

 Okubo explains that this is a deep cleaning process where a mixture of steam and cleaning agent are routed through high-pressure jets that allow the steamy water go through the fibres of the carpeting and loosen the dirt and without damaging them. The mix of dirt, cleaning agent and steam (now water) are then almost immediately extracted from the carpet using a strong vacuum.

Equipment used in steam cleaning vary from smaller handheld devices to larger devices capable of cleaning large surfaces.Usage of professional cleaning services in Kenya is to a large extent limited to commercial entities.

Though the industry has been on upward trajectory in the recent past, uptake of technology in the industry has been low, such that other than the basic vacuum cleaning many of the firms employs manual process in doing much of their work, which is costly, time consuming and inconveniencing to clients.

Robert shows how the cleaning is done at a clients house.

 Okubo however says there is opportunity in cleaning both commercial and residential property.Dirt and grime can be a nuisance at both office and home. Many people are left with ugly marks on their sofas and carpets that they cannot remove and do not know where to go for help,” he said.

People need the services and we see potential not only in Kenya but the region and our plan is to set up in major cities in the region soon.”

He draws parallels between the consumer needs of Kenya and US markets but notes that consumers in Kenya settle for less because of limited competition and service providers offering poor quality services.

The American market is informed and consumers know where to get the right products,” said Okubo.

The Kenyan consumer is also informed but in many instances, they do not get many alternatives because service providers are few and end up getting overpriced and poor quality services.” He however notes that the market is slowly picking up and has so far created employment for 3 people.

Watching him extract dirt from carpets and seats, I realised how easy it is to keep dust away from our houses without consuming much time and at reasonable prices. “Our carpet charges depend on the size charging Sh.9.50 per square feet.”

 His biggest dream is to some day get a contract to steam clean the state house which he believes it will come true.

Slum Outreach






It’s drizzling when we take the dirt road leading to Mukuru kwa Njenga slums in Nairobi. Every inch of the earth appears occupied by the pedestrians angling for any open space place one foot after another, some barefoot and unsteady from drink.

It is mid afternoon and petty traders howl themselves hoarse, calling the passers-by to the wares on the road. Amid the din, we squeeze ourselves through and head to Jami Bora Trust offices in Mukuru, where loans officer Victoria Muinde is busy attending to a client.

The office is one of the slum outreach programmes which Jamii Bora started after the post election violence in December 2007.

After the violence, many people moved to the slums and it was difficult for us to reach all of them without moving to where they are,” Jamii Bora staffer Janet Chepng’eno Bett explains.

The programme is meant to intensify the penetration of the slums by Jamii Bora, which has opened 25 slum branches in the outreach.

Fifteen of the branches are in Nairobi, five in Mombasa and five others in the greater Nairobi. A lot of hope lies in this programme and we expect to see many more people recruited,” Janet explained.

To strengthen the programme, 40 social workers have been hired with Janet coordinating the operations while Phillip Ochola is in charge of the programme operations.

The social workers sign in every morning before going out for mobilisation, they have been working very hard and we appreciate their effort,” Janet says brightly face.

Seventy five staff members have also been trained, (three in every branch) to handle all the activities in the branches.

Muinde says they have been doing well in their outreaches although it takes a lot of persuading to convince people to join.

The fear of pyramid schemes is still very fresh in them,” she says, referring to get-rich-quick schemes in which Kenyans were swindled at least Sh3 billion by the time the scheme collapsed 2 years ago. Many suspects are awaiting trial over the scam.

1. Janet Chepng’eno Bett (standing) the coordinator,slum outreach proggramm consults with Nancy Wairimu, the branch manager at Jamii Bora’s head office on Funzi Road in the Industrial area


Nonetheless, Muinde says many are still joining Jamii Bora after seeing the first batch of members secure loans and expand their businesses.

But there is a lot of interest in the housing and the health programmes offered by Jamii Bora.

They all want to climb the ladder out of poverty and get funds to acquire houses and get out of the slums,” Muinde adds, in reference to the housing scheme in Kaputiei, Kisaju, where slum dwellers have been settled, serving mortgages to ultimately own the houses.

Lilian Opunde, a small trader in Mukuru says, “Jamii Bora has a great strategy and I believe they will help us get out of

the slums; I want to register for the housing programme because I want to own my own house,” she says as she sells her second-hand clothes outside Jamii Bora outreach office in Mukuru.

Opunde adds that if she were to rely on her business, she and her three children would forever remain poor in the slums, hence the desire to move out.

Isaak Karanu sells eggs across the office and just like Lilian, he is eager to get a loan so he can see his business grow. “I will never stop selling eggs; this has been my lifeline, and has helped me feed my family. If I get a loan, I will extend this business and become a wholesaler.”

Karanu also says the medical cover is very affordable and reliable, “I think Jamii Bora has the cheapest health cover in Kenya today catering for the low earners like us. I can be sure to get Sh30 per week and with that little, my family’s health will be fully covered,” Isaak says happily.

Sabina Mbatha has been operating a green grocer for more than 20 years but has never seen it grow. “Though I have been feeding my family, my business has not grown an inch but with Jamii Bora I believe I will get to see the difference,” Sabina says.

2. Ingrid Munro, the founder of Jamii Bora


The Jamii Bora Mukuru branch office is an year old but it provides a crucial service as it is the only financial institution operating in Mukuru and has so far registered 33 groups.

In every slum outreach branch, there will be mentors who will be used as examples to encourage others to join.

Mentors will be chosen from the successful members and will undergo training before taking up their responsibility,” Janet says.

The programme has also helped Jamii Bora trace defaulters who have been finding the offices too far to go clear their loans.

Slum dwellers are low income earners and they consume the little they get as soon as they have it. They find it even harder paying fares to go and clear their balances in other branches.

Coming where the people are has made it easy for them since they can pop in any time and start settling their debts with the little one can get,” Muinde explains.

Muinde points out that their biggest challenge has been to motivate the very poor the benefits of saving.

Sometimes we go to very poor neighbourhoods and find people with no food. They don’t understand when we tell them to save while they can’t even meet their basic needs. They ask us to feed them first.”

Still, with the help of the trained social workers they have been able to deal with this challenge and make many of such people join Jamii Bora.