Companionship and Release: A story of an undergraduate student sex worker from Rwanda

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My name is Jeannette. I am a Computer science undergraduate student and a sex worker in Rwanda. I grew up in a very religious and extinguished middle-class family in Huye. My family ensured that I thrived in both primary and secondary school. They stressed on their desire that I become an independent and sophisticated feminist, and as soon as I solely relocated to Kigali to attend university, I began constructing the adult I was expected to be.

Living in Kigali costs an arm and a leg compared to the Huye. The monthly allowance my parents generously gave me covered only half of my expenses. My family had been financially struggling to cater for my siblings and I. Therefore, I dared not to ask for a higher allowance to avoid giving them anxiety. I instead borrowed money from my peers’, sure that I would pay them back from the allowance I was to earn for my mandatory internships at school. Nevertheless, I failed to get an internship due to my lack of a business network in Kigali. Moreover, my appearance was not as captivating as my peers were due to the lack of female cosmetics and stylish outfits. I could not charm my way to getting an internship. Seeing the sorrow that the expenses caused me, my friends would regularly take me out for drinks to clubs and bars to cheer me up.

On one outing, I allowed myself to engage with a European tourist that I went to bed within the moment of bliss. The time spent with him was euphoric and to top it off, he gave me 50usd for my ride to go back to my house. A motto to my place was a tiny percentage of the money received and the rest would cover a month of my food expenses, I was ecstatic! The tourist and I continued our blissful love affair for the two months he was left in Rwanda. He left me heartbroken, but very rich due to the transportation fair he gave me that ranged from 50usd-150usd with each encounter. The amount he gave me even helped me to upgrade my appearance and charm my way into getting an internship! The lifestyle had become way too comfortable and I could not allow it to slip through my fingers. To sustain it, I conduct sex work through online dating and one night stands in bars and clubs. Providing companionship and release to men will secure that I graduate from university with no loans and no anxiety as a result of the living expenses.

A human’s greatest instinct is survival. Therefore, I had to allow sex-work to be a part of my life. I have been privileged enough to receive great sex education and I have a 6th instinct that allows me to tell a man’s character after a few conversations. This allows me to prevent myself from STDs/AIDs, pregnancy and physical abuse from an uncivil client. I pray that every sex worker in Rwanda can be assisted to attain the same knowledge and instinct to avoid the victimization of sex workers. Many university students are sex workers because they understand that a young adult’s greatest achievement is financial independence from his/her family. Therefore, unless Rwanda decreases the high rate of poverty in the country, she must stop discriminating and criminalizing people that simply allow themselves to cut corners to make ends meet without being harmful.

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