Below is from a post I wrote about a year ago. I chose to repost it now because I’m in the middle of revising the new and improved, rewritten Kwizera, which now includes a character who made a choice that may seem quite foreign to many of us, and is related to what I wrote a year ago.
And since I’m in revision-mode, I’ve made changes to the post inspired by my new character, Odette.
Prostitution and AIDS
Well-dressed young women hanging out at bars and nightclubs frequented by foreigners. An English mechanic’s housekeeper-cum-girlfriend. What do they have in common? The foreign men who pay them for sex.
Oh, and did I mention that the mechanic had a wife and children back home in England? I don’t mean to pick on the English. I saw the same thing happen with Belgian men, and heard about plenty of other expatriates enjoying the company of pretty Rwandan girls, then paying for their clothes or food for their families.
So prostitution has been around forever, right? Yes, but now AIDS has entered the picture.
These girls know they could die of AIDS by the time they turn twenty-five. And they don’t care. For a few years they are taken care of, well-fed, well-dressed, and they don’t have to work in the fields. They would rather die young than work as farmers.
Add to this what many of these girls suffered or witnessed or survived during the war and genocide, and you have a mind-set of “Life is short”. Why not enjoy life while they can? Why work themselves to the bone at subsistence agriculture to live in mud huts on a hill and to marry a man with no further ambition than to feed his children?
The girls who choose prostitution also choose a life in the city of parties, dancing, restaurants, nice clothes and the dream of a better life. They hope that one of their foreign clients might fall in love with them, marry them and take them to Europe or North America where everyone is rich and always has enough to eat.
What did I learn by witnessing young girls trash every value they had ever learned from parents who are now dead or missing? What did I learn by administering a program that, among other things, poured money into a government agency designed to educate the Rwandan population about abstinence, protection and a disease without a cure?
I learned that the fight against HIV and AIDS in Africa is the longest uphill battle you could ever imagine.