I want to show you something
by Jamie Boiles, Director of DuHope
Moses: Hey Jamie. I want to show you something.
Me: What do you want to show me?
Moses: This place I eat lunch. I want to show you something there.
Me: You want to take me to lunch?
Moses: No, there are women near there who sell themselves. You are the expert on women and I want you to see it.
In 2015, our university pastor at my church in Kigali, Rwanda called to say he wanted to show me something. That day, my life took an incredible pivot.
Moses, Gabie (my Rwanda program director at the time), and I went down to a busy area of town. I felt like I was on a documentary about a red light district. It was everything Rwanda says they are not--Rwanda has done so much development in the last 25 years and it prides itself on being clean and organized. This area was the opposite of who Rwanda says they are - it was crowded, dirty and loud. As we walked down this narrow alley, called the corridor, we saw a long row of bars and lodges. Women were standing in front of these locations as men were coming up and soliciting them. Gabie lived about 10 minutes from where we were and shared that she had no idea this was happening in her country, much less her neighborhood.
At the end of the street, the three of us sat and drank a warm coke and talked about what little we knew about the sex industry in Rwanda at that time. Then Moses said that he was "going to go get one". He went out, solicited one of the women, and told her we would pay her for her time. He came back with a young lady, we paid her the equivalent of about $5.50 for an hour, which was what she told us she would make from a client. At the time, I was shocked at how little we paid her. Later I found out she makes about $ .65 per client and can get more if she doesn’t make them wear a condom.
As we asked questions, she opened up about her story. Her life, like many of our women, started in a small village, in extremely poor conditions and she was not able to go to school. When families have to pick which kids go to school, they will choose the boys, as they are seen to have more opportunities for income later in life. She couldn’t read or write, so when she was offered a job in Kigali cleaning someone’s home, she jumped at the chance. After a short time, her boss moved away, she was left without a job and began selling clothes on the street. She met a man who got her pregnant. He was married and didn’t want anything to do with her or the baby, so she continued selling clothes to support herself and her baby. When her child was about two, her clothes were stolen and she said, "I had nothing left to sell, but myself.”
I asked her if she could get out, meaning, did she have a pimp or a manager? She said no. I asked her if she had another opportunity, would she leave? She said yes. She continued to tell us some pretty graphic details about her work and that environment, but the three of us walked away from that alley knowing we were about to be called up to do something big.
About three weeks later, Gabie and I knew we were supposed to start something to help these women. We were hosting a training for young female entrepreneurs called, Duhu (short for Duhugurane, meaning, "Let us learn from each other"). We realized they needed some training and some hope; they needed some DuHope.