A short video clip extracted from a television drama and circulated online has given an upcoming actress sleepless nights.
The last one month has been rough for Yvonne Moraa as she has received all manner of insults, with some friends abandoning her.
It all stems from a television show she participated in depicting how desperate girls date older men for financial support and lavish lifestyles; colloquially known as the ‘sponsor culture’. Some are, however, misused and even miss out on the money.
Interestingly, her role seems to have inadvertently delivered the wrong message to men as many have been trying to reach her for ‘romantic dates’. They cannot separate the actress from the character she plays.
Some of her friends allegedly leaked her contacts on social media and now she has to keep responding to requests from men who think she entertains ‘sponsors’.
“I always receive calls from strangers asking for sex. Some even say they will send me transport (fare). It is just disgusting to see how some men treat young innocent girls. I just acted in the series, now people are treating me like the character I played. I am just trying to make a living in a legitimate manner through art,” says Ms Moraa.
Some public figures, including former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, even vowed to “sue the man molesting her” in the viral clip. He criticised the ‘sponsor’, only to learn later that it was a television show.
“Siku hizi these sponsors have become too much, kama hujui kuomba slay queen pole pole aisha kukunywa enda ulale. I’m now idle hebu huyu dame achukue P3 anitafute tuinue huyu shoga,” Mr Sonko had posted on his Facebook page.
Loosely translated, he meant: “Sponsors have become ‘too much’. If you cannot politely seduce a ‘slay queen’, just clear your drink and go home. Since I am now idle, this lady should obtain a P3 form and look for me for legal assistance.”
The Ekegusii TV drama, ‘Bosongo Chituka’, airs on Ndizi TV. The ‘offending clip’ was extracted from episode 12. It’s about a young girl by the name Sabiri, who leaves her village and goes to Kisii town in search of greener pastures.
She’s taken in by a friend who often leaves in the evening and returns in the morning. She’s a sex worker, but it takes Sabiri a while to discover the truth. After the honeymoon is over, the host asks her to go out and work. Sabiri had left her child with her parents, who are also piling pressure on her to send money home.
She begins going out with men older than her father, who pay for her services. Oftentimes, she finds herself on the receiving end. Some clients take advantage of her naivety; some refuse to pay.
One of her potential clients is a rich man her father’s age. They’ve been drinking whiskey at a popular club but Sabiri isn’t interested in sleeping with him. The furious ‘sponsor’ later beats her up in a room and tries to strangle her as he seeks to subdue her resistance to his sexual advances.
“Are you listening? There is time for friendship and there is time for business. This is business,” he shouts at Sabiri as he throws her at the couch.
Sabiri breaks down, helpless at the mercy of the ‘sponsor’, actor Obino Nyambane, the Kisii County Director of Culture. “I don’t know who edited the drama and circulated the clip on social media. The aim was to embarrass me. It’s malicious,” he observes.
Mr Nyambane is an experienced actor who’s used to controversy. He’s a teacher and an accomplished scriptwriter and director. Before he joined the county team, he taught Kiswahili and Geography for over 30 years.
Unfortunately for Ms Moraa, the society judges a woman harshly and she has had to pay a heavier price for her role. “I am the one suffering in the clip and sadly, people are now bullying me,” she says.
A young inexperienced actress, she joined the industry last year and this was her first TV break.
“This is my first serious project but people have taken it out of context with many accusing me of prostitution,” she says, noting that young men think she dates ‘sponsors’ in real life, telling her they are “more energetic”.
Ms Moraa is a nursing student at Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) in Migori trying to raise funds for her diploma course. “I hope to continue acting. This has inspired me that nothing comes easy,” she notes.
Kisii County Youth Director Douglas Arege says the movie mirrors what’s happening in the society as many young girls suffer in silence.
“Moraa needs money to complete her nursing studies and instead of leaders condemning her and making her feel bad about her acting, they should come to her rescue by paying her fees,” he says.
“Many bad things are happening in society. While it is a reality that the drama depicts the plight of young girls in the hands of older, rich men, Moraa is not one of them.”
He faults people who are quick to condemn before understanding the context of the clip. “Kenyans are too judgmental. They need to sober up while responding to issues. Leaders should address issues bedeviling young people,” offers Mr Arege.