Where Prostitutes Get Paid In Fish

File photo

Dec 26, 2019

NPR – A tall woman with a strong gaze is standing by the shores of Lake Victoria. It’s a busy morning. Boats are coming in full of fish: Nile perch, catfish, tiny silvery fish called omena — aka the Lake Victoria sardine.

She has her eye on one boat in particular. Like the others, it’s made of wood. It’s about 30 feet long. And it has a majestic white sail.

“That is the first boat which we started with for No Sex For Fish,” she says.

The woman is Justine Adhiambo Obura. She’s a big presence — full of energy and righteous indignation — in the village of Nduru Beach, population about 1,000. Wearing bold prints and colors, she strides along the beach as if she owns it.

Justine’s life didn’t turn out the way she’d hoped. She once dreamed of being a doctor but dropped out of high school after she became pregnant. She has nine children, one of whom has developmental disabilities, and nine grandchildren. She has been a paid community health worker, counseling people who are HIV-positive.

She’s on the board of the local hospital. She owns some cows, chickens and goats.

And since 2011, she has been the head of the women’s cooperative No Sex For Fish.

It’s a bold name. A revolutionary name. A name that tells you what Justine, now 61, and other women in the village have been fighting for years to change.

Along Lake Victoria, the fish business is divided by gender. Men own boats and go fishing. Women buy fish from them to sell at the market.

The lake’s fish population began dwindling in the 1970s because of overfishing and environmental problems — sewage and agricultural runoff in the lake, for example.

Fishermen weren’t catching enough to supply all the women fishmongers.

So the fishermen started offering a quid pro quo: Give me sex, and I’ll make sure you get fish to sell … Read more. 

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