Rahma* lives a life that’s an envy of many. She shops at some of the city’s most exorbitant malls and is always at an exclusive party every weekend. At the age of 22, the university student has explored the most scenic parts of the country.
This brief description of her life might have you think that she’s from a wealthy family, or maybe, on a fortunate day she won millions from lottery or betting.
That is far from the truth. Reality is, Rahma’s life, however pleasant it might seem, has a secret behind it – she relies on men, who are sometimes more than twice her age, to keep up with the high-class lifestyle.
Such men are popularly referred to as ‘sponsors’ – a term that’s synonymous to “Sugar daddy”. Most young women nowadays live an “online” life. Some have garnered the nickname “Slay Queens” - meaning they stunt on the gram by showing how luxurious their life is, often times posting photos or videos to attract potential “sponsors”.
For young college students studying in Dar es Salaam, keeping up with the city life at times proves too hefty a burden for them to carry, they therefore resort to the aid of wealthy men.
This, however, comes at a cost. These young girls lavish the older men with their looks and sexual appeal while he indulges them with luxuries.
“Men only want one thing from us [women]. They want to sleep with us. In return they are willing to give us anything we ask for. At times the relationship can last for years, and other times it can be as short-lived as a week,” she says.
These men, who more often than not fall prey to strategic traps set for them by women on the loop, at times are married with families of their own. The relationship therefore is covert, lest they risk losing everything once things are put out in the open.
Moral judgement has no place in such relationships. As Aida*, 26, a university dropout reveals: “You must be willing to forego any form of moral consciousness if you are determined to live a sponsored life,” she says.
Her journey into such a lifestyle dates back 3 years ago after she came to Dar es Salaam to pursue a university degree. Hailing from Arusha, Aida didn’t have any next of kin in the city. She was a complete stranger in a new city – bewildered by the new life she’d encountered.
“I managed to make a new friend at the university and she offered to help me with my accommodation conundrum by letting me move into her apartment,” she says. This served as a short-term respite from the ocean of worries that Aida was swimming in without any life jacket.
Her break would come after she was invited to be a member of an exclusive Whatsapp group of female students at the college. Though the purpose of the group was intended to discuss college affairs, Aida would soon find out that that was just a cover up from something that defied all codes of decorum or expected student behavior.
The Whatsapp group was used as a platform for female university students to get connections to wealthy men. “Through searching online, they’d link the men back to the group and we’d decide who was to “date” the identified subject,” she reveals.
Aida managed to find herself a man whom she suspects was not a day younger than 50. “He was wealthy and had no family ties. We dated for about a year. During the 12 months I managed to get anything I desired,” she says. However, the relationship came to a sudden stop after the sponsor set his eyes on another student at the same university.
Aida, who was then in her second year, encountered some family problems so she had to go back to Arusha. She decided to postpone her studies, planning to resume once everything was settled back at home.
Upon her return to the city, Aida decided university life was not for her. Having saved Sh1,500,000 from her one year fling, she decided to open up an online store where she sells second-hand lingerie. She wants to live an independent life, but acknowledges the fact that that is easier said than done.
Young women today are drawn to the life of depending on wealthy men to sustain the urban life. They in the process jeopardise their future by living life on the edge. Some of the men they date are married men, whose wives don’t take lightly the idea of their husband stepping out on the marriage.
There have been multiple incidences at universities, where wives have stormed in to the institutions demanding to see a particular student after finding out that that student is having an affair with her husband.
Lecturers have on occasions had to step in in order to alleviate a physical altercation between a student and someone’s wife accusing the student of destroying her marriage.
Gender Centre at the University of Dar es Salaam tries to ensure university female students are not taken advantage of. They do this by teaching them about self-worth and the different forms of gender inequities, including sexual assault and other similar cases. The centre also encourages girls to speak up if they become victims of any form of unwarranted sexual advances. The centre emphasizes on academic excellence by teaching female students to discern between right and wrong.
Though no cases have been formally reported to the Gender Centre at the University of Dar es Salaam regarding female students dating older men for money, such a choice of lifestyle is however pervasive in most colleges in Dar es Salaam.
Case in Kenya
The situation of living a sponsored life is not exclusive to Tanzanian women, similar cases are common in neighbouring Kenya as well.
Linda,* now in her mid-30s, says she had a time of her life when she dated Tony, in his 50s, for the two years they were together. “He was an understanding man and told me that if I ever wanted to get married, he would support me,” reveals Linda.
Having been dumped for an older woman in her previous relationship, Linda was heartbroken and her self-esteem plummeted. “Tony was just what the doctor ordered. He was always available for me, treated me right and helped rebuild my self-esteem,” she confesses.
“When his wife discovered about me, I opted out. Tony was such a generous soul that he gave me enough money to settle,” says Linda.
As much as these ladies say their lives have overall improved and it probably would have taken a lifetime to achieve what they have, they maintain they do not do it out of greed but to enhance their lives.
That said, we cannot turn a blind eye to the possible negative outcomes of such relationships, including murder of the young women and we are left wondering whether it really is worth it. Probably the bottom-line is to realise that everything we do has consequences.
Such stories about young women dating rich, older men for tuition money will only increase in the coming years as more dating websites offer a place solely for young, attractive singles to seek out older, financially generous professionals.
Dating apps such as Tinder, Match.com, Badoo, among others, are very popular among young women and men alike in Tanzania. they use these platforms to meet potential partners, some use them to track down rich older men.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy