At the age of 16, Sarah Nakayiza became a prostitute when her mother died suddenly and she was thrown out of the house by her father. Now 27 years old, she spoke to Cynthia Aber about the hardships she experienced as a sex worker and how she closed that chapter.
When my father, a businessman, separated from my mother, he told me: “You are no longer my daughter. Go and look for your parents.”
I had no one to run to except a friend who was a prostitute. When I started living with her, she advised me to join her in the business to earn a living, since she would not be able to cater for all my needs.
Even as I was practising prostitution, it was my desire to have someone to love and cherish me. Someone with whom I could have children. I endured a lot from angry, arrogant men. Some said they wanted to marry me and that is how I ended up being used by so many men thinking they were the right one for me.
Some men never bothered to pay for the services after using me, saying I did not meet their expectations. I could not figure out who was telling lies or the truth.
After being deceived for more than a year, I had given up on men and anything to do with love. But there was one soldier who was my daily customer and had never mistreated me. I was surprised when he proposed to me, and because of my past experience with men, I never took him seriously.
I had given up on life and lived recklessly. I decided to concentrate on prostitution to earn a living. The soldier, however, insisted that he wanted to marry me and finance a better business for me if I agreed to quit prostitution.
I again ignored the proposal but he never gave up. He started to care for me, providing for my needs, like a man would do for his wife. But still, I rejected his proposal. I had received similar ones before and got disappointed. To see whether he was a serious person, I kept him waiting for a year.
One time, he proposed to see my parents. At this point, I realised he was more serious than the past men in my life. I accepted to get into a serious relationship with him.
Because of the things he was doing for me and after he visited my parents and family, I moved in with him. He also wanted me to go and meet his parents.
This is the moment that every girl would wish for. We spent most of the time getting to know each other better and discussing our future. He helped me get back into school and we later got married. We have been blessed with two children
I am now doing a catering course at YMCA and operate a small business in Kampala. I trade in second-hand clothes, shoes and jewellery, among others.
I advise people out there who are experiencing the same that there is no permanent misfortune. Your situation can change.
Ditching prostitution: An expert's view
Joseph Musaalo, a counsellor, says it is possible for prostitutes to give up their lifestyle with help and a strong support system.
“The person must have accepted that what s/he is doing is not right. The success of rehabilitation can depend on the community. Such people need support because change is not instant,” he says.
Self-esteem also needs to be restored first. “Self-esteem is important. You must love and appreciate yourself. Stay away from bad influences like friends who can entice you back. You should also avoid places you used to go to, like night clubs,” he says.
“Find healthy activities to replace the habits. Focus on your health and taking care of your family. Try to forget the shame, anger or the names people give you. Deal with it and develop a positive attitude,” he adds.
“The person must be able to develop the charisma of saying no, I have taken a step. They must have come up with resolutions and have people who will support them to stick to the new purpose.
Musaalo recommends getting a system of accountability where a reliable friend can help you keep on track with the goal of quitting and staying away from prostitution.
To overcome your challenges, you need someone who is open and frank with you. Counselling sessions may also be necessary.