Kenya’s Deputy President offers money for sex workers to start new jobs

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto promised money to some sex workers for them to change jobs. He wants to represent an alternative choice in the 2022 presidential elections by supporting people struggling in the hustle economy.

William Ruto during a speech in the Makueni County in south Kenya
William Ruto during a speech in the Makueni County in south Kenya | © William Ruto, Twitter

On October 25, during a speech from a car going around villages in the south of Kenya , the vice president pledged to offer 1 million Kenyan shillings (US $9,000) to sex workers of Mtito Andei, a town of 5,000 people, for them to start new businesses, Kenyan news media report.

He asked the sex workers in the area to build a SACCO, a Savings and Credit Cooperative, a type of cooperative pool savings, where he would deposit the funds.

In Kenya, the average wage earnings were 800,000 KSh a year according to the Economic survey of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. The funds would then account for about 15 months of an average salary for a single person.

The vice president, without mentioning the source of the funds, made the pledge after a woman, reportedly identifying herself as a sex worker, explained economic difficulties faced with the Covid-10 pandemic. Prostitution is illegal in Kenya.

The politician is known to aid people with cash tokens or other populist actions. Earlier this year, he has been offering wheelbarrows, handcarts or water tanks to young unemployed Kenyans to help them working.

The announcement was made during a speech which looked like an open-air rally where he promised to create 4 million jobs for the youth in Kenya.

Such donations are part of William Ruto’s “bottom-up economic development model” focusing on low-income earners.

A “Hustler Nation”

By trying to go beyond the traditional ethnic-based political choices, he wants to talk to who he refers to as “hustlers“, of people struggling to make ends meet and making money through informal economy.

William Ruto makes no secret of his past as a poor child, one who lived barefoot until 15 and sold chickens on roadsides, but who achieved success and got rich.

How he got rich has been surrounded by several allegations of land grabbing or corruption.

In 2013, the High Court ordered him to give back a farm and compensate the farmer for illegal land grabbing during post-election violence in 2007. William Ruto is also often associated with the murder of a businessman who was a critics of corruption and of the politician.

In a not-yet declared bid for the next Presidential election in 2022, the vice president promotes his a “hustlers versus dynastyclass-based politics.

And he positions himself at the opposite sides of rich and powerful dynasties embodied by the President Uhuru Kenyatta and former opposition leader, Raila Odinga, the respective sons of the first president and the first vice president of Kenya.

Uhuru Kenyatta was allegedly supposed to endorse William Ruto for the presidential election in 2022.

However, in 2018, the president came to an agreement with Raila Odinga, his former political rival in the contested 2017’s presidential elections, which saw about 150 people killed during riots after the results.

Odinga and Kenyatta became political allies, and Ruto wants to be the face of an alternative.

Read more about Kenya

Ruto gives Sh1 million to sex workers, Nairobi News, October 2021, Free accessRuto to give Sh1m as start-up capital to sex workers for legit businesses in Mtito Andei, The Star, October 2021, Free accessRuto’s Sh1m pledge to Mtito Andei sex workers’ ‘Sacco’ draws criticism, The Standard, October 2021, Free accessEconomic Survey 2021, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Free access, PDFKenya's Deputy President Ruto campaigns for 'Hustler Nation', BBC, August 2021, Free access“Hustlers versus Dynasty”: Kenya’s New Class Politics, Global challenges, March 2021, Free access

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