Mai Ngaa (51), still going strong in commercial sex work

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She is actually a great grandmother though at first glance one fails to notice that she has seen better days until she smiles and there are about five teeth left — which she is not even shy to display.

Her big grin also brings out distinct crow’s feet at the corners of her mouth and eyes.

Mai Ngaa (MN) is actually proud of her looks as she relates her story on her career in prostitution to correspondent Beaullah T Mbirimi (BTM).

BTM: I don’t even need to ask how you are. Are you always this cheerful, Mai Ngaa?

MN: There is no reason to be sad in my job because clients will run away, plus I am an actress and it’s not difficult to create a smile.

BTM: You mean you are a professional actress?

MN: I have always wanted to act, but never got the opportunity to go professional because of my JC (Junior Certificate-Form 2) level of education.

They say they want graduates and my degree is from the beerhall so that’s where I do my acting as a solo comedian. l’m not shy to make people laugh and they all know me for my funnies. I also dance at road shows and street theatre performances and have won several prizes though they don’t offer big prizes.

BTM Are you sure you failed to go professional because of education?

MN Not really, but I remember the producers all wanted to sleep with me first before telling me that I needed a degree to be an actress so it put me off after five attempts. At one time I slept with the cameraman but it got me nowhere.

BTM How is your health now and does it not affect your job?

MN I go to our clinic where we are encouraged to use protection and we are get free treatment and free pills. I am very time-conscious as though there is an alarm in my head that 7am and 7pm I must take my ARVs.

I actually ask my clients to give me a chance to take my tablets and some of them like it because 7 is a common time for most people who are on the ARV programme.

Even at funerals we are given food before others because we need to eat as we take these tablets, that’s why I am fit. I am very careful ’coz I move around with my condoms (she takes out a strip of 10) and I am good at making them use it ’coz there are some who want to offer more money for unprotected sex, but no ways. I did it once and almost died of an STI and I don’t want to be cruel and give it (HIV) to men who are not positive.

BTM What happens if you run out of condoms?

MN Well, most men move around with one in their pockets or cars. Madam, there is also a female condom which we are encouraged to insert 8 hours before an act. That’s the only problem because 8 hours with a foreign object inside is not a joke. The female condom is also uncomfortable during a sex act; the manufacturers should do something about that ring at one end, it’s painful. Otherwise it was a good idea.

BTM I recommend you talk to your peer educators or the sister-in-charge at the clinic.

MN OK.

BTM How would you like to join the projects for disadvantaged women which are being introduced in the locations?

MN I really love joining those groups and they have promised to teach us how to make liquid soap and bars for sale. The problem is we were told to raise $5 per person for raw materials and to pay the demonstrator, but where do we get that kind of money from?

BTM So all you need is full sponsorship?

MN You have come up with a good idea. Get us a sponsor and see if I go back to bars.

BTM How does the community treat you? Don’t you have relatives to relieve you financially?

MN My brother died in February and no one contributed for the funeral. I had to go to beerhalls and managed to buy a coffin for his burial. The community does not help at all, let alone relatives, they are all useless!

BTM If you were to get $20 now will you go to the beerhall today?

MN No, madam. I will buy meat for my family because they last ate meat long back. Thank you very much. I have to go and buy meat and mealie meal to cook before Zesa disappears.

BTM Before you go, tell me why you continue to drink when you’re on the ARV programme.

MN Some habits are hard to break, you know. I would be happy to stop drinking, but our customers like to buy us beer not cokes.

BTM Thanks for your time, Mai Ngaa. Now you can go and spend quality time with your family. You should go to church, it helps.

MN I am a leader of Mai Maria sect in the Catholic Church so there is nothing you can tell me about church. Bye madam and thanks. (Sings, dances and walks away laughing)