Between 2009 and 2012, I embarked on an unconventional project in Lusaka, Zambia. After interviewing over forty women who work the streets to sell sex in exchange for money, Nightlife was born. This book profiles twenty-five stories of those women. The stories are heartbreaking, shocking but real. I am pleased to inform you that this book is now available on Kindle on Amazon.

During my work on this book, I spent a lot of time at clubs in Northmead, Kabwata, Chilenje and other places in Lusaka. At first, it was very difficult to get the women to open up and share their difficult stories. In many ways, I related to some of those stories. I know firsthand what it is like to lose your parents and have your world turnaround just like that. I also know that many of you will relate to the stories of these women because they bring back to life the buried and unresolved issues of our society.

Here is Lulu’s story as featured in Nightlife:

Lulu is a pretty, shy seventeen-year-old girl. Though she is only in her teen years, she has slept with at least twelve men so far. According to her, this is not a lot. She had only started prostitution about two months earlier. She had never slept with a man before she got into the business. Two months, twelve men. At an average of six men a month, or two and half men a week, this girl is on a fast track in this industry, I thought.

Lulu lives with her parents in Kalingalinga. The only nightclub she patronizes is just less than a hundred meters from her parents’ house. Lulu does not speak English. She dropped out of school in grade nine. For about three years after grade nine, she did none of the things she had wanted to do. All she did was baby-sit her siblings, do house chores and whatever her parents asked her to do. She was bored to death because all her friends were in school or busy doing things that made them happy. She wondered why she was having such a “cursed life”.

This girl is short, medium build and well-rounded cheeks. She has a great smile which leaves a big gap between her teeth. She could pass for a twenty-five-year-old. When asked what she wanted to do in life, she quickly points out that she wants to do social work and work with people who are infected with HIV/AIDS. What? Quite a contradiction, I thought. But before I pointed an accusing finger at her, I decide to probe further about her choice of this career path.

Living in Kalingalinga which is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Zambia and perhaps with one of the highest prevalent HIV/AIDS rates in the city, she has seen many people die of this disease. As a matter of fact, she has had close relatives who have died, including cousins, uncles and aunties. Some are still living positively with HIV. She remembers counselors coming to school and talking to them about HIV/AIDS explaining that it was dangerous and spreads very quickly. She had decided much earlier that she will not sleep with any man until she was married—a goal she clearly hasn’t been able to meet.

I only sat with Lulu for one day to talk to her about all this. This girl was well informed about HIV/AIDS for her age or even education level. Many girls her age know little about the killer disease. I even learned from her about CD4 count and all that; information even I was not very familiar with. To put it simply, CD4 count determines the level of cells in your blood that helps to fight the virus in your body once you are infected. That is why an infected HIV person’s condition is downgraded to AIDS if they have a very low CD4 count. Generally, at this stage, their health is usually not very good.

Things for Lulu took a different turn when her parents started playing matchmaker for her. They talked about how she was a grown-up woman and needed to get married. Her father had suggested indirectly that she needed to marry one of the neighbors. She could not believe this. This was an elderly man the age of her father. How could her father think of such a thing? How could he ever think of giving her daughter away in such an immoral way? These are the questions that ran through her mind as she recalls.

At first, she thought her father was joking. But the moment “this man” started making advances to her, she knew things were serious. She told him off. This man had just lost a wife and had children who were as old as she was. She was under such pressure from her parents including some of her relatives who, according to her, didn’t think that she could do anything else in life. None of them had ever sat to ask her about her future plans. None of them had suggested potential things for her to do. According to her, her father’s motivation for wanting to marry her off in a hurry was the dowry.

In Zambia, when a woman is getting married, the groom’s family pays a huge sum of money to the bride’s family. Though traditionally this was often quoted in cows, nowadays it is just converted into cash. Currently, the going price for a bride can be as high as 12 cows.

It was during those low moments that Lulu went out with some of the older girls from the neighborhood to the nearby nightclub of Mayela. Mayela, or “Sin City,” as it is sometimes referred to, is one place full of activity. The place is patronized by girls from Kalingalinga, Mtendere, Kaunda Square and even as faraway places as Chawama. In stark contrast, the men come from the wealthier neighborhoods of Kabulonga, Woodlands, and Ibex Hill.

Barely a fortnight after Lulu was introduced to Sin City, she slept with her first man in the nearby Theresa Lodge. The man paid her $25 for a “short-time”. She was in so much pain that she went straight home after this experience. She had conflicting thoughts throughout the night about this experience. She loved that she was able to earn some money. “This was the first money I ever made and it took only about ten minutes to make it,” she said. However, she was filled with shame that she could do such a thing. How could she lose her virginity to an old man, let alone a stranger? How could she sell her body?

For the next two weeks, Lulu struggled with these questions. Nevertheless, she enjoyed the freedom of having her own money and spending it on things like a phone, lotion, and sanitary pads. “I knew I could stop depending on my parents for money,” she recalled. “Besides, I had to do something to upset them so that they do not push me to marrying that man.”

Lulu became a frequent customer to Mayela. She would go with some of the girls who were more experienced. They would buy a drink and sit at one of the tables talking about many things. “When a man likes you they would usually ask one of the bartenders or door bouncers to come and talk to you. You would then go out and talk to the man. After you agree on the price and venue then you would go and get it done.”

One thing she was warned by the more experienced girls was not to go with a man to their house. So the girls at Mayela insist on a short time or going to the lodge. After all, you make more money when you do short time. Lulu explained that most men were violent if they took you to their place. After sleeping with you, they would not want to pay you and would simply throw you out of the house in the middle of the night.

She tells a story of one of the girls who went with a man to his place somewhere in Woodlands. After sleeping with her, this man asked her to leave immediately. He quickly picked up her clothes, dragged her out of the house and through the gated wall fence, and threw the clothes at her. She was not paid anything. She did not know where she was. She put her clothes on and started walking the streets of Woodlands until a taxi stopped and gave her a free ride back to Mayela.

According to Lulu, she has had sex with men in cars, someone’s yard, and even at the back of the nightclub. The most she has slept with is two men in one night. She admits that other girls can sleep with as many as four men a night. Lulu points out that her parents have stopped talking about the marriage. The older man has stopped pursuing her because now everyone knows what she is doing.

Lulu is somewhat embarrassed by her new profession. She states that she will stop as soon as things settle down and she saves some money to start a business. When asked if she will continue to pursue her dream career of social work, she quickly agrees. She will save some money and then do a course at one of the counseling schools.

Just before I concluded the discussion with Lulu, I asked her about whether she had been tested for HIV/AIDS. She admitted that she had not. She is careful that men use protection when having sex with her. In fact, she carries some condoms in her purse. She thinks that she is not positive anyway. I asked how much money she needed for her to do the social work or counseling program she wanted to do. She said she needed only about $250. When I asked her whether she would stop prostitution if someone gave her that money to go to school she answered emphatically, “definitely!”

This story is testimony of how Lulu’s parents indirectly pushed their daughter to get involved in prostitution. Is it that her parents are so poor that they wanted to make money by marrying their daughter off? Would the father have pushed her daughter to get married to an older man if he wasn’t poor? Probably not. These are some of the questions I reflected upon as I left Lulu that night. To be honest, her story left me very depressed. It made me angry at how humans can sink so low.

When I got home that night and was typing this story, I was encouraged to continue with this work. After all my community needed to know, the civil society needed to know, the government needed to know and the world out there needed to know. A story as Lulu’s, a young girl of only seventeen, pushed into prostitution by the poverty of her parents needed to be told to the world.

My goal in this book was to not only highlight the plight of the women but also to engage people in conversation. There’s tremendous need for ordinary Zambians to speak out on issues that affect Women. We need to reach out to the victims and help them. We also need to engage lawmakers and policymakers so that we can develop laws that protect such vulnerable groups.
In the book, I offer some recommendations that could help in protecting the women who risk their lives on the streets. Please reach out to your communities and organizations that support vulnerable women. The book can be accessed at Amazon

By Wezi Ngwenya

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32 COMMENTS

  1. The more reason people say HIV is a money making driving tool for people. why does always have to be a poor lulu from a poor home….We have well to do girls selling sex openly by these shopping malls or thru internet. I have personally seen rich girls going an extra mile to book at a 5 star hotel and having secretive clients who can manage some 5 pin for a round. so lets stop this notion of poor coz sex selling is jst a calling..RICH OR POOR. i KNOW its stories like that which brings NGOs who bring all those money for you but spare us sympathy on HIV

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    • The real story should be from the perspective of the JOHNS who pursue these women! They are the real culprits.

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    • @Nubian, how can you say Wezi Ngwenya had to sleep with 25 women to get his book written?
      I worked briefly with 3 months with social welfare in Lusaka. Its hard to find a “Prostitutes” in Lusaka. Most of them are 1 night stand, and you never find them again. And most girls have same kind of story…

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    • If this excerpt is how your book comes out then Mr Ngwenya you missed the point & your book is just as judgemental as all wannabe writers do on this subject. Prostitution is such a broad subject that it requires enhanced techniques both scientific & social to fully discuss.
      I suggest you could just have tried to write about poverty among the youth in kalingalinga then project prostitution in that area as one of the offshoots.
      Even your discussion of the “dangerous” HIV/AIDS maybe seen as stereotypical stigma associated with this condition.

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    • @Mushota, not everything should be about you. This is about young girls being forced into doing what they don’t want and it is dangerous. Maybe you should be trying to help these girls get off the street since you are there in Europe with your fience because this could have been you if you were less fortunate in Zambia. Just don’t say its sad, do something.

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    • $25 for short term and all she needs is $250 to quit. She should’ve made that by now. The easy money is addictive isn’t it Lulu?

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    • Its very sad, i didn’t know some people like you are still mourning the August 2016?? My friend, mourning is three or seven days, this is depressing for you, am sure!

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    • I don’t understand why UPND do not just release their evidence to the public through social media if the Kangaroo Court will not hear the case? Get somebody to write a book about how Lungu stole the elections and provide the evidence. At least the public can make their minds and opinions about the fairness or lack thereof of the last elections.

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  2. The INTRODUCTION and LULU’s STORY DO NOT MATCH: the author started by telling us about children who lose parents, a dire situation but then goes to write about Lulu, who parents are very much alive and still procreating. THEY ARE IRRESPONSIBLE TO THE CORE and SEEM NOT TO CARE ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THEIR CHILDREN! By the way as observed, PROSTITUTION SOMETIMES IS A RESULT OF MERE GREEDY OR WANT FOR QUICK SOLUTIONS TO FINANCIAL PROBLEMS! SOME OF GIRLS INVOLVED IN THIS TRADE WOULD RATHER CONTINUE WITH IT THAN FIND REAL DEMANDING WORK LIKE TILLING THE LAND, SELLING AT A MARKET ETC TO EARN THEIR LIVING DECENTLY but PREFER QUICK MONEY WITH “PLEASURE”!

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    • @MD, People like you are what is wrong with Zambia. Yeah go on hiding behind the computer and trash someone who cares about girls in need of help. If there is anything useless, then it has to be you. You ought to be ashamed of yourself to even comment on this thread.

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  3. Nothing revealing about this story. It’s the same old stories about young girls engaging in pre-marital sex. I was once engaged in a research by an NGO and operated from Cockpit night club in Garden Compounds. There are more horrible and touching stories than what the author is trying to portray. Maybe I should read his whole book

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  4. Kandu Luo formed Tansita to curtel this problem faced by young ladies.Dont just print a book for it to gather dust on the shelves visit her at her office and see how best you can solve this persistent problem now that she leads one of the Ministry may be she can help to recommend this young girl with one of the scholarships.

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    • Wrong- Luo gathered a group of her old friends and greedy hags to form Tasintha. The organisation used csw’s as guinea pigs for her micro biology research. The old ladies use it as a source of livelihood. Get real facts

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  5. IT IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG IN THE SIGHT OF MAN AND GOD, THAT PEOPLE WOULD SETTLE TO DO IMMORAL THINGS JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE GOING THROUGH TOUGH MOMENTS IN LIFE. THE BIBLE, IN THE BOOK OF ISIAH 43:I GOING DOWN TALKS ABOUT GOING THROUGH THE ‘WATERS AND FIRES’ OF LIFE AND GOD HAS PROMISED US THAT HE(GOD) WILL BE WITH US, THE WATERS AND FIRES (PROBLEMS) WILL NOT LAST FOREVER. SO DO SOMETHING GOOD THAT WILL PLEASE GOD WHILE YOU ARE GOING THROUGH DIFFICULTIES IN LIFE.

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  6. Let’s distinguish between those who do it for ‘thirsty’ (the starved but married or single) and the victims of ill fortune. The starved, especially the married, deserve little of our sympathy, if any. It is the victims of ill fate (thrown onto the street by ill-fortune) we should cry for. Society has a moral duty to do all it can to bring the plight of these little ones to light, and indeed salvage what little it can of the little lives. That’s why it hurt me so much when a UNZA bound girl in Kalingalinga committed suicide when Kambwili said shiit about the govt not giving bursaries. The poor child would rather die than join her siblings in night life, and that speaks volumes about tough life out there.

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  7. @Mukweto, thank you for slotting in the religious slant. Indeed, the church has a core duty to mitigate the plight of its flock, more so that it has gotten richer and richer. But what hope is there for the poor sheep in a time when the most expensive school or college belongs to the pastor (or whatever else he is now called)? Reciting verses alone will never ever (has never ever been) be helpful unless followed up by action. The church (by extension all faith-based organisations) are best placed to help here in so far as it stands close to the source, but it, too, is lost in the woods.

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  8. ….sorry, I don’t think I would waste my money buying this book…its evident that the author did not do his homework thoroughly…..Just from the paragraph which talks about Lulu having slept with 6 men in a month what not…that’s bullsh1t…6 men in a month..??…a sex worker from Mayela and those surrounding night clubs…let the author go back there and re-do his work….he should have been talking of an average of around 3 different men in one night….unless the first reveller asks for a sleep out….just from that paragraph, I felt discouraged to continue reading….sorry

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  9. Feeling sorry for Mushota’s fiance. Was there sufficient checks for him to make the decision, the guy will be the most miserable man on the face of this planet

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    • I hope Nick did insist on a – ve HIV test result from Mushota. Knowing how these Bemba biatches have conquered clubs like Mayela it is safer to stick a carrot or finger into her than your d!ck.

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  10. Just a few clarifications;
    1. If you read the book, you will notice that some stories of women Nightlife are not poor or uneducated. There are many reasons why women engage in prostitution although I found that most were predominately driven by economic reasons. In the book, there are stories of women who live in Ibex Hill, Makeni, Chudleigh and many other no-so-poor neighborhoods.
    2. Tasinta is a prospective partner in receiving proceeds from this book. They contributed a lot to the book by providing women whose stories are also featured in the book.
    3. I have never claimed to be a good writer. My writing often focuses on social, economic and justice issues. My goal is usually to speak for those who don’t have a voice.
    4. I have worked with Corban Addison International bestseller…

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  11. Thank you for the report @Wezi Ngwenya. I wish Edger Lungu could cut some of the useless trips he is taking and just help these kids. A lot of money that is being misused by these worthless corrupt leaders could go a long way in helping any of these girls off the streets.

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  12. She reached grade 9 does not speak English but can ‘educate’ an author on CD4 count and HIV? She needs 250$ to read for social work and cannot speak English? Perhaps a little proof reading would help make the book more credible

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  13. Good read but wrong conclusion. She was not pushed into prostitution by her parents. Even amidst the pressure from home to marry an older man, prostitution isn’t a solution. From the story, my opinion is she ventured into the business for the money. One needs to make a conscious decision for such continued behavior. If pressure from home was the reason, she may have stopped the moment people knew about what she does but no. As she said it herself, she loved the freedom the money she earns affords her. For some, harsh circumstances lead them into prostitution. It’s however not justified even with them but more so with this young lady.

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  14. Guys this is another one of those stories written by a foreigner with a narrow perspective of the country they are visiting. He found prostitutes? He was abusing young girls to have some fake background to a book. Did he have to come here to find sex workers,he could have done this in his home country.he says kalingalinga has high hiv prevalence, based on what?was he interviewing and taking hiv tests. He can just go eat a bucket of d!cks and stop wasting our time!

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