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Women on Mututho laws

By | February 12th 2011

Penina Mwangi the Executive Director of Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme, says though the Act has a positive moral standing, it means loss of jobs for their members. She spoke to ALLAN OLINGO

What’s Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP)?

The mission of Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) is to influence policy and facilitate provision of quality health services, human rights awareness, legal services and economic empowerment for bar hostess and sex workers.

What are your objectives?

Our main objectives are to serve as a focal organisation and voice for bar hostesses and sex workers through providing the bar hostesses and sex workers with information and linkages to services on key issues affecting them. We also promote self and behaviour change among bar hostesses and sex workers and strive for justice and welfare of bar hostesses and sex workers in Kenya and support them to claim their rights.

Penina says all stakeholders were not consulted. [PHOTOS:EVANS HABIL]

What’s your organisation stand on the Alcohol Act?

We are opposed to the new Alcohol control Act because of the adverse effect it has had within our members. This Act was also not comprehensively thought over and its implementation mode is far more costly to our members too. Even though the Act has a positive moral standing, the social and financial implications are far fetched and its effects have been disastrous for our members.

How has it affected the members of your organisation?

With regulated hours of drinking, there has been massive loss of jobs with our current statistics standing at around 5,000. One thing the law didn’t address was that most of the bar hostesses are casually employed and thus remunerated on the hours worked and with reduced hours means reduced wages. Secondly, most bar owners are cost-cutting on the number of employees and this directly affects our members who have lost jobs and most of them are resorting to be commercial sex workers to eke out a living.

On the implementation stage, we are helpless since we cannot raise the required fine because they are hefty. For example, if a reveller is already drunk and he or she orders more bottles or tots and is served, the seller will be liable to a Sh100,000 fine while the buyer risks parting with Sh5, 000. As casuals, we have targets in terms of sales and when we flout these rules, not even the employers will fork out this amount to bail their employees yet we have to put food on the table.

At what level was the Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme involved in the drafting of this Act?

We were never consulted and we feel short-changed since this bill did not have in mind the massive job cuts that it would come with. The drafters of this bill did not consider all the stakeholders and as much as the bill was in good faith with its moral high standards, it has terrible failed as a result of its economic implications to the industry as a whole.

What measure has your organisation taken to address these effects amongst your members?

We are in talks with the bar owners association with a view of striking a balance over the effects of the Alcohol Act. This is with a view to help curb more job losses amongst our members.

We are also participating in relevant forums and convening meetings that bring together all stakeholders and working closely with beneficiaries in the search of practical and efficient solutions to their challenges.

We are also involved in educating and empowering our members who have lost jobs with skills and confidence necessary to create a healthy lifestyle rather than resorting to the streets to supplement their earnings.


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