By Daisy Nandeche Okoti
Published October 21, 2014
The notion that money makes the world go round seems to be taking the better of many youth in urban Kenya. These young people, driven by the belief that ‘the end justifies the means’, use any available opportunity to make their tonne of money.
So what do we get?
Prostitutes call themselves ‘Divas’ and ‘Socialites’ and criminals–kidnappers, carjackers, drug traffickers, extortionists, terrorists–refer to themselves as entrepreneurs. And they are all unapologetic about what they do.
While there is no denying that the world is moving on in all areas of life and regarding long standing African norms and traditions as having lost touch, the relative values being generated are tearing Kenya’s social fabric apart.
Perhaps if the youth did whatever they do behind closed doors and in a way that only they and their cohorts knew about their activities, the dangers they pose to the entire society wouldn’t be so grave.
But why should any one care, anyway?
Because the so-called mainstream or legacy media—radio, television, newspapers, magazines– that have become so liberal, feed so much on the stories of the abnormal to the point that it gets to the ears of young girls and boys who, being very impressionable at that young age, end up aping what they see, hear and read from the media. The media of fantasy, also known as social media, especially Facebook, make things all the more worse: they not only thrive on but also push those stories in the face of everyone and thus help normalise them.
In 2012, a page for call girls calling themselves Campus Divas for Rich Men was opened on Facebook. Those who created the page said it was ‘dedicated to hooking up female Kenyan university students under the age of 26 with rich men’. Appealing to customers, the owners of the page said, “Money can buy us. Inbox us for hookups.”
The page, that had about 3 000 members before it came to public attention, received more than 7 000 new members over a 24 hour period following publicity from Nairobi’s Kiss 100, a liberal radio station that has been stalked by controversy since its birth. The public outcry that came inthe wake of the publicity from Kiss FM forced Facebook to pull down the page that brazenly promoted commercial sex work from people believed to have been young university students. But that was hardly the end of the story, or was it?
Vera Sidika, a woman who calls herself a ‘socialite’, is the latest media sensation in Kenya. But not for anything noble.
Told by a journalist in an interview that “Many people refer to you as a high class prostitute” and asked whether she was aware of it, Sidika responded, “I know and I don’t care.”
“Would you consider yourself a role model?” the Nation journalist asked again.
“I wouldn’t want to be anyone’s role model, I would just encourage anyone to work hard in whatever they do best,” Sidika said.
As if to leave no doubt as to what Sidika does for her lavish life style, the journalist posed: “Explain to me, like [you would to] a two-year-old; what is it that you do?”
“I appear in places and get paid for that. It could be in music videos, or even events,” Sidika said.
“How much do you charge?”
“My range is about US$2,500 (Sh217 000) per hour in events,” Sidika, who says her artificial ‘hair’ cost Sh450 000 (US$5 625) and skin-bleaching Sh15 000 000 (US$187 500), responded. “I even get more than that.” All this money, she says, comes from her body!
Vera Sidika is just one of the many young ‘socialites’ in Nairobi who live lavishly not from their rare scientific knowledge, academic skills or sporting prowess but—you guessed it—from their bodies.
Writing in Daily Nation on May 30, 2013, Jackson Biko described a ‘socialite’ as “a woman (mostly) with abnormally big buttocks and little imagination” who do little other than “hang out in swanky cafes in malls” and sell “cosmetic beauty, and mostly, big buttocks.” Did he say they are ‘brainless mannequins’, too? Whoever heard of a manequin earning US$3 000 per hour from what Macharia Gaitho, an editor with Nairobi’s Daily Nation newspaper, refers to as ‘foolish men’.
Folks, how do you explain how a 21-year-old woman barely out of school can afford to live in a Sh60,000 (US$750) rent per month apartment in Nairobi, wear six pairs of shoes—each costing Sh10 000 (US$125 X 6 = US$750)—carry an Sh8 000 (US$100) hand bag and Sh20 000 (US$250) per month hair-do without being gainfully employed and, certainly not using any family wealth? Where does she get this kind of manna that many university-trained career people in Kenya where salaries are kept to the basic minimum only dream about?
Caroline Njenga, a career woman with two young children, attributes this trend to what she refers to as ‘incomplete parenting’ that is generated by parents’ ‘busyness’ that rob them of the time to inculcate the right values in their children. The offspring end up being parented by mass media that appear to be hell-bent on propagating questionable values in society
Fannie Mogotu, a mother of a university-going daughter, says that there is rampant peer influence on university campuses that lead youngsters astray.
“What goes on in campus residence is scary. You never can tell when your daughter begins to deviate from the moral upbringing you have accorded her, all thanks to negative peer pressure.” Mogotu says. “I try as much as possible to be involved in my children’s life because many of the problems manifested among the youth germinate during the parenting stage.”
Sam Dennis Otieno, a university student, says that the society today is changing too fast and the greatest undoing of young people is allowing themselves to be misled by their peers.
“No right thinking person should allow themselves to be lured into doing something that is not right. It is important to think of the long-term while involving ourselves in certain activities,” the final year student says.
Jennifer Muchiri, who teaches literature at the University of Nairobi, believes the moral breakdown in Kenya is to blame for the way the youth are turning out.
“All the structures that previously held the society together seem to have broken down. The family, school and the religious structures which should ber at the centre of moral guidance have all broken down and this is why many young people today are growing up without proper guidance, leading to them to imbibing mostly wrong content from the media which sensationalise and amplify the moral breakdown,” Dr Muchiri says.
Macharia Gaitho of Daily Nation writes that what some of these young people are doing is a reflection of the state of leadership in the country. Leaders, Gaitho contends, have failed the integrity test.
In an article titled, “National Dialogue? We Have Divas, a True Reflection of Our Warped Mores” that was published on June 9, 2014, Gaitho writes: “We admire and place on the pedestal scoundrels, thieves, drug-traffickers and murderers simply because they are wealthy, but we will not question the source of their wealth. Our “divas’ and “socialites” might well qualify to run for president for they are simply excelling in national mores.”
Gloria Ndirangu, a pastor with New Life Mission in Ong’ata Rongai on the outskirts of Nairobi, says what drives young people into doing some of the things which are considered strange is inner emptiness.
“Many of these young people do not really know who they are,” Ndirangu says. “In a desperate bid to make sense out of lives they turn to extravagant lifestyles that are achieved through the unconventional ways such as prostitution, kidnapping, drug trafficking and so on. Self-fulfillment and purpose in life is one of the main needs of human beings.”
So, what remedy do you suggest for these young people who appear to be stack on the wrong path of life?