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Citizen Weekly

Monday, 4 May 2015

Nairobi estate where churches, brothels 'contest' for members



Pipeline Estate in Embakasi is a place favoured by many for its affordable cost of living. It has other attractions; one of the largest concentration of churches in Nairobi. One hardly moves ten metres without locating a church. The Counties counted over 100 churches from Quarry stage through Stage Mpya to Pipeline stage. Churches here have adopted eye-catching names to attract congregations. One comes across many churches. “Welcome. God will turn your miles into smiles,” reads a banner at the entrance of a church. Ironically, the many churches neighbour bars that operate 24 hours. Come Sunday mornings, all one hears are pious hymns. As dusk falls, another characteristic of the estate emerges. The scene changes as most residents; both men and women, young and old throng the bars. Sylvia (not her real name) is a 26-year-old resident of Pipeline and says men from all over the county go there to sample the ‘delicacies’ on offer in the area. The single mother of a six-year-old has three jobs she does in 24 hours and rarely finds time to sleep.
She is a waitress, a soloist in a church and a prostitute. She has a tight schedule in which she attends to all her duties. I met her as a waitress in one restaurant at Tassia estate and we engaged in a chitchat. “I left Vihiga when I was 20 and came here to look for a job because my poor parents could not afford to take me to college,” she revealed. She offered to introduce me into the area’s nightlife. Days later, we met at Pipeline stage at 4pm and she led me to what she called a trendy pub in the area, a-storeyed timber and iron-sheet structure where many people were drinking alcohol. I order for our drinks and as we converse, she tells me that due to grinding poverty, she is forced to engage in prostitution to make ends meet. “I pay Sh5,000 per term for my child’s school fees and Sh4,000 as rent monthly. I am paid peanuts as a waiter and have to come here to get more money to sustain myself,” she said. She added, “For a room and a quickie here, one pays Sh200. That’s why men love this place because of the cheaper rates.” As time goes by, a lady who introduces herself as a gospel artist walks in hawking music CDs. A male patron cheekily offers her a drink but she declines and promises to come back later for the drink. Moments later, the area MP walks in and is quickly joined by some girls. Another patron beckons Sylvia and I use the opportunity to slip away. She later sends me an sms, saying she wants to have sex with me at a negotiable price. “If you use a condom, you will pay me Sh200. If not we have to negotiate,” the sms read. She agrees and fixes the price at Sh500 and invites me to attend her church the following day. On Sunday, I never found time to speak to her as she was busy leading the choir.