A soft feminine voice comes on the line immediately the phone call is picked up on the other side: "This is Leila".
The bedroom voice and exotic name are but tools of the trade in her
given profession. She gives us quick directions and a run-down of the
'personal services' she and the other girls offer.
"I'll meet you at the gate downstairs," she says. "Call me when you get here".
Her fluent English and charm in the brief telephone conversation are
proof her skills go beyond the bedroom. But that is what she seeks to
sell when she adds: "I'm certain you will be a repeat client (after your
Leila, a diploma graduate from the Technical University of Kenya, is a
call girl working under a false name at a massage parlour in Nairobi's
She plies her trade alongside a dozen other young girls, some with better education qualifications than hers.
Her search for a formal job lasted eight months after attaining her
diploma in Information Technology back in 2011. Having no one to support
her through a lengthy job search, she ended up at this 'personal
services' point that is no more than a drug and prostitution den.
The parlour is on the second floor of a high-end apartment block where
young girls, below 26 years, earn a livelihood offering their bodies to
The massage services are an obvious facade; most of the girls expect to
talk customers into sexual services, which pay more per hour. Here,
clients get to choose anything from a basic massage, at Sh1,000 per
session, sexual acts in the premises or 'takeaways' at between Sh5,000
The skimpily dressed girls do not live here: They report to work in mid
afternoon and typically stay on until around midnight on days when
business is slow. Working hours are longer on weekends and holidays when
things get busy.
Since she was recruited to this job in 2011, life has become more
bearable, Leila says. She no longer needs to ask her aunt, whom she
previously lived with in Lang'ata, for any financial support.
"?At least I a'm earning my own cash," said Leila after we sat down to
talk at a restaurant within the neighbourhood. There is no pride in the
work, though. "I feel like a letdown to my parents who live in our rural
home in Taita".
For her, Friday and Saturday evenings are the most lucrative. On a good
day, she takes home Sh8,000 from entertaining her male clients with
massages and other personal services. This, she says, is enough to pay
her rent and upkeep.
Her boss, who is more experienced as a high-end call girl, is also a college graduate, Leila adds.
But this is not the life she expected when she first came to Nairobi in 2007 before enrolling for her course the following year.
She aspired to become an IT support expert. Her hopes started fading soon after completing school.
She put in countless job applications even before formally graduating
from the then Kenya Polytechnic, but never received response from
"I just gave up on finding a job and decided it was time to make a bold
step," said an emotional Leila, while puffing away a cigarette.
"It is the same life everyday but it'??s the only option I have."Leila's
life is played out by thousands of other youth, both male and female,
who have been pushed to becoming commercial sex workers.
She is among an estimated 10 million people under the age of 35 who have been frustrated on the job-hunt.
Officially, there were only 2.3 million people in Kenya who were unemployed last year.
But the number is an understatement considering millions others who have
lost hope of ever finding formal employment, and like Leila, have
turned to demeaning jobs.
But even with the rising frustrations in the Kenyan labour market,
college graduates are more exposed owing to a slowdown in the creation
of jobs in the formal sector which would typically employ degree- and
diploma-holders like Leila.
The informal sector was responsible for about nine of every new jobs
created last year, according to the 2013 Economic Survey, which reported
that only 68,000 new jobs were created compared to 74,200 in 2011."