Something‐for‐something love: the motivations of young women in Uganda

Suesanne Samara (Intercalated BSc in International Health, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Publication date: 7 September 2010



This paper aims to explore the motivations of young women in Busoga, Uganda, engaging in “Something‐for‐something” love (SFSL) relationships. Something‐for‐something love is defined as engaging in sex in exchange for money, favours, gifts and goods. This paper examines whether these relationships affect young women's ability to negotiate safe sex.


Qualitative methods were used with a group of six young women including participatory video, drawing, stories and life histories. In addition, semi‐structured interviews were conducted with each participant and two key informants. Data were analysed using an inductive thematic approach.


Peer pressure, financial gain, school fees, basic needs and family pressure were key motivations for SFSL. Power dynamics embedded in Ugandan local culture were found to play a significant role in SFSL and family pressure is suggested to assume a greater role than previously perceived. Transaction was considered to be part of what was expected within a “natural romantic relationship”. Condom use was less likely in relationships where a great amount of gifts were exchanged, as men were more likely to negotiate sex on their terms, and this often led to unprotected sex.


The study contributes much‐needed insight into motivations behind young women participating in SFSL. Young women involved in such relationships are portrayed along a spectrum ranging from vulnerable to empowered. The study emphasises the role parents and other kin play in influencing their children's sexual and reproductive health choices. The study highlights to policy makers that interventions aimed at improving parent‐child communication are needed; as well as a more informed approach to HIV prevention, taking onboard the complexities of SFSL.



Samara, S. (2010), "Something‐for‐something love: the motivations of young women in Uganda", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 512-519.

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