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Kanisa Road, where sex workers praise the rod

 Kanisa Road by night: The street comes alive with various businesses operating along the busy stretch. [PHOTO: SAMMI MOSE]

Nyeri town has several streets connecting to the Central Business District and the main Karatina-Nyahururu Road. Its streets are all named after historical figures such as Gakere Road (named after precolonial chief Gakere wa Ngunju) and Kimathi Road (named after Freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi), among others.However, one street stands out; Kanisa Street- right after the junction that connects Nyeri town to Kenya Power offices. It leads to various hotels, onwards to the Nyahururu stage.

This road is named after the church (Kanisa), breaking the monotony of streets being named after powerful political figures who played recognisable roles in the society and a saint (Nyaatha). One would think that due to the street's name, there could be churches in plenty but alas, the road, which is about 100 metres long has eight buildings offering lodging services.

Sh150 to Sh200 per hour

In fact, the building with the fewest lodging rooms boasts of 10, while most have between 20 to 40 rooms. Kanisa road is also the favourite base for Nyeri sex workers who report at different points from 8pm to wait for clients with an itch begging to be scratched. The sex workers have an arrangement with some of the lodging managers who offer them rooms at between Sh150 to Sh200 per hour. This bill is of course passed on to the client.

What is curious about this road is that although it is called Kanisa road, it has only one church while most of the buildings along its stretch host rooms where horizontal activities frowned upon by the church are the order of the day.

In one particular building, all rooms are used by sex workers offering "essential services".Margaret Wa Mukoria, a sex workers' defender in the County, told the Nairobian that the street has 30 ladies of the night who stand at strategic points along the 100 metres' stretch.

Usiku Sacco

She says Nyeri Central Business District has about 300 sexual workers while Nyeri town and its outskirts such as Kamakwa, Ruring'u, King'ong'o and Game Rock has a 800 workers whom she interacts with at night as she dispatches condoms.

She said her "Usiku Sacco" members like the street because it has several corridors where they can hide in case police officers who do not mean well come calling. "The street has a wide view angle for them to locate their clients and that is why many love to hang out here. The availability and accessibility of affordable rooms is also another attraction for them," Wamukuria said.

But the relationship between the oddly named street and the sex workers did not begin yesterday. Anthony Mwangi, a resident, said the stretch started attracting the night nurses in 1999 when the Central Hotel which was adjacent to the street was operating. Mwangi said by then, the hotel which is now closed was the big thing in Nyeri town. That is when tourists enroute to Nanyuki passed through Nyeri and had to sleep at Nyeri town.

"Tour drivers slept at the hotel and sex workers were allowed in. Along the street was South Tetu bar which was a night club and we could visit since it had a juke box."There were other clubs such as Happy Times along the street and Impala club behind the street which gave life to the upper Nyeri town. Due to this, sex workers stuck to the area to date," recalled Mwangi who operated a taxi then.

Beer and women haven

He said the increased number of colleges and upgrading of colleges to Universities in Nyeri has increased the number of sex workers as well.One of the sex workers who requested not to be named as she is also a devoted Christian and also fears being stereotyped said the street has moneyed clients compared to other joints, especially in the lower Nyeri town.

"Clients from this end include the working class and businessmen who like us because we are a bit high in terms of standards and cleanliness. And as the name Kanisa suggests, we don't spike our clients' drinks and we engage in clean business," said the sex worker.

She said the women also know each other and are organised to an extent that they don't allow newcomers to camp at the street. This ensures that their names are not soiled when deals go south between new girls and their clients.

The existence of many bars around the street is also a plus to the sex workers because they have easy access to randy drunkards loitering around the street. "Beer street could have suited this road better because there are about four bars and a wines and spirits business as well."When you mention beer, the word that follows is women. We like this place because we can service the daily drinking officers!" added another sex worker.

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