Sugar Daddy Syndrome

By Sara Strawczynski, Tanzania

Yesterday I spent about 12 hours on hot, crowded and bumpy buses in Dar Es Salaam.   At least half of that time was spent idling in traffic jams, an inevitable experience whenever one travels to the far-flung corners of this sprawling city. I was trying to reach a couple of Tujijenge Tanzania clients and interview them as part of Kiva’s borrower verification process (learn more about that by reading some excellent blogs on the topic).  I found one of the two clients I was hoping to meet, so the day was partially successful.

The end of the bus line. From here, it was a 15 minute piki-piki (motorbike) ride to reach the client

By the time I got home it was close to 9pm, and after cleaning up and a quick meal (rice and beans in coconut sauce – delightful!), I was ready to relax. Allowing myself a short reprieve from noisy, dusty Dar, a movie was in order. Figuring a British film set in 1960s London should do the trick, I settled on the film An Education; however, as the story of a schoolgirl’s doomed relationship with an older man unfolded, I couldn’t help but recognize that the movie holds significant parallels with modern Tanzania.

Listening to morning radio on the commute to work in Tanzania, you’re going to hear a message from the Fataki campaign. Fataki, which means explosion in Kiswahili, is a fictional ‘big man’. He preys on girls and young women, offering them money, food, and gifts for sex. Exemplifying Sugar Daddy Syndrome, the radio spots present Fataki in everyday situations – trying to buy a meal for a schoolgirl, taking her to the supermarket or a traditional dance show, or offering to pay for a school uniform. Fataki’s efforts are thwarted each time by the girl, her family, school staff and strangers.

Fataki and schoolgirl. Photo coutesy of:

The campaign aims to challenge toleration of cross-generational relationships, which contribute to Tanzania’s frightening rates of teenage pregnancies, school-drop outs and new HIV infections among young women. The campaign isn’t preachy, but tries to ridicule and stigmatize Sugar Daddy Syndrome. Of course radio ads alone aren’t going to empower young women or end gender inequalities in education, unplanned pregnancies and the spread of HIV/AIDS; however, opening the discussion is a step in the right direction.

Microfinance has a role to play as well. Microloans and the profits they generate help families cover school-fees and other educational expenses such as transportation and uniforms for their daughters and sons. Perhaps girls who are well fed and supported in school, and girls who see their moms in control of businesses and finances, won’t feel like they need a sugar daddy to buy them a soda and chipsi mayai (an omelette with fries inside), or give them a couple of bucks in exchange for sex.

Things turn out fine for the girl in An Education, and she goes on to study at university. Real life is much more complicated, but hopefully more girls and young women in Tanzania can avoid Fataki dynamite, and will at least get the chance to finish primary and secondary school, and start adulthood on their own terms. You can help support them by lending to young entrepreneurs and their moms and dads through Kiva.  Check out the latest opportunities from field partner Tujijenge Tanzania here.

Sara Strawczynski is serving as a Kiva Fellow in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

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