It is a seemingly good life for many. Some petite, others big while some are extremely successful despite being young girls who come in all colours.
There is also a drop of a man here and there to complete the world of sponsors in what one report has christened Sugar Dating.
The report by the Busara Centre for Behavioural Economics notes that there is an “exposure to and prevalence of sponsorship relationships in Kenya is relatively high, particularly amongst young women.”
Despite the illusion of luxury where some of the women interviewed said that the culture provides them with an opportunity to make money in a fun way that complements their student life, the ugly side of violence lurks.
Sex, Money and Instagram
Some of the women reported abuse and threats to their health as well as safety. However, most choose to overlook the violence monster since in the end, they have the keys to the high life which includes travelling, wining and dining in places they would otherwise not have been able to set foot in.
According to the report, Sugar Dating: An Investigation of ‘Sponsorship’ In Kenya, Sh5,000 a month is all a woman in campus to start what could become a lifestyle of receiving cash tokens for whatever services they offer to their sponsors.
The sponsorship prevalence is high at 20% but it is hidden with only 2% self-reporting that these relationships exist. Peers however relatively accurately and easily recognized the relationships with the estimated prevalence standing at 24% among female university students.
The study shows that 1 in 5 women at the university in Nairobi (who participated in the study) currently have or have had a sponsor (20%).
Is sponsorship acceptable?
While it may sound attractive to some, the association between sponsorship and prostitution creates shame in being associated with having a sponsor.
61% of participants agreed with the statement that “having a sponsor is shameful” while 49% of participants considered sponsorship and prostitution to be interchangeable.
81% of women rejected this type of a relationship and when asked to rate the statement “Sponsorship is cool”, 85% of participants disagreed.
Some 29% of the respondents agreed that sponsorship was acceptable if true love was present
“As such, love makes sponsored relationships more socially acceptable, but it is at the same time a very uncommon part of these relationships.”
Violence against women in Kenya remains common, with the national health survey of 2014 documenting that 39% of women in Kenya have experienced either physical or sexual violence.
One in four women experiences violence every year with 14% of women experiencing both physical and sexual violence.
For married women in particular, almost all violence is committed by their husbands indicating that violence exists across different types of relationship structures.
In the sugar dating scene, the sponsee is at larger risk because of their dependency on the sponsor’s money, which gives the sponsor an unequal amount of power in the relationship.
Jane Thiomi, a regional manager at LCVT Health says, “The effect of sponsorship on the sponsee is that from the get-go the sponsor has power in the relationship. The person being sponsored, whether male or female, loses power in the relationship because of their dependence on what the sponsor has to offer, in this case; money.”
She adds that sponsor relationships are not healthy relationships because they are not rooted in love or affection.
“A sponsor knows if he has money he has power.”