Media campaign hopes to address discrimination and violence against sex workers

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A media campaign aimed at changing and challenging societal attitude towards sex work, sexual orientation and gender identity has been launched in Southern Africa.

The campaign involved sharing real-life stories of people across eight countries who are sex workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and how they have been accepted in the communities they live in.

Dubbed as ‘Unheard Voices’, this initiative is a culmination of research, country visits, face-to-face meetings with communities where sex workers live. The radio, TV, and posters will be broadcast in six countries in Southern Africa in different languages. The stories will also be published on http://unheardvoices.africa/

The story on sex work features a father’s struggle to accept his daughter who is a sex worker. The two are estranged, but later reunite at her graduation.

It is hoped that these stories will spur discussions on sex work and challenge societal beliefs that continue to perpetuate discrimination and violence against sex workers.

Sex workers from South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, and Angola were involved in the project with ASWA as the coordinator.

The campaign has worked with four regional networks that represent people of different sexual orientations, gender identities and expression as well as sex workers to unearth these stories. These include the African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA), African Men on Sexual Health Rights (AMSHeR), the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) and the Southern African Trans Forum (SATF).

The project is part of the KP REACH programme funded by The Global Fund, managed by the non-profit organisation Hivos, which seeks to reduce stigma and discrimination against people who are gay, bi-sexual, lesbian, transgender or engage in sex work as it is a key barrier to people feeling safe accessing vital health services.

The real-life stories shared by sex workers and the LGBT community were created into radio ads and digital content by creative agency, M&C Saatchi World Services.

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