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School-age children in Kwale are skipping classes in pursuit of easy money, often earned through the illicit sex trade.

Child prostitution is slowly becoming acceptable in this county, and by extension, the Coast region.

Parents and pimps convince or force minors to sleep with foreign tourists and wealthy locals for money, maybe for school fees or to pay bills.

Families are poor and hopeless because genuine job opportunities are becoming rare, thus encouraging this trade more subtly.

Kwale locals made these revelations during “Ms President” forums Muhuri held this week in the county, Mombasa, and Kilifi. Muhuri reached over 500 beneficiaries.

Media reports indicate there could be as many as 100,000 child sex workers in Mombasa – a disturbing figure that has turned Coast one of the world’s hubs for child sex tourism.

Cops are on the spot. Locals claim bribes have made them overlook the trade, Muhuri Kwale field officer Abdulrahman Mwangoka, said.

Authorities are allegedly sweeping reported cases under the rug, creating shields for the perpetrators. Minors have no choice but to normalize transactional sex for anything from sanitary towels to free rides, Mwangoka said.

“Ms President” aims to empower women to seek leadership roles, end such vices, including violent extremism, that has seen police, especially from Kwale, linked to 11 forceful disappearances since November 2019.

About “Ms President”

Discussions in these forums also revolved on conflict resolution, good leadership principles, equity and equality, national values, peace and security, cohesion and inclusivity, and countering violent extremism.

Participants said county and national governments don’t engage them meaningfully on issues of immense public concern. If they do, the attendees said, it is just a public relation stunt or a formality because they have already decided on the issues.

"Ms President".

Participants during one of the “Ms President” forums in Mombasa. Muhuri has held such meetings in Kwale and Kilifi. Photo © 2020 Ernest Cornel/Muhuri.

Kilifi women complained about the expensive cost of healthcare. They reported deplorable sanitation standards at the Kilifi County Hospital.

“The participants also reported that at the County Hospital, most of the patients are attended to by medical students and interns, and not by qualified doctors and nurses,” Muhuri Kilifi field officer, Afye Swaleh, said.

Kilifi women, in some instances, felt vulnerable under men’s leadership, and could not make decisions, including those affecting their health, Swaleh said.

“They could not visit clinics without their husbands’ permission,” Swaleh said.

Swaleh said locals listed unemployment, drug abuse, terrorism, negative ethnicity, and corruption as some of the threats to national security. They want the government to invest in technology and intelligence gathering to combat terror.

‘Ms President’ inspires women to greater height