The Sex Worker Academy Africa (SWAA) is an initiative which is implemented by African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA). The ASWA Steering Committee of sex workers identified Kenya -Nairobi as the host country for the African Academy.
The goal is to build the capacity of sex worker-led groups in Africa, to promote and implement the Sex Worker Implementation Tool (SWIT) and advocate for sex worker’s human rights and promote rights-based community-led services.In addition the Academy aims to to strengthen skills of community leaders to participate meaningfully and intervene on policy changes and issues impacting people in sex work at the local, national and regional level.
The Academy emphasises on trainings that incorporate a mix of knowledge and appropriate skills which sex work leaders can then implement at the field level. The modules are usually a combination of presentations, films, skits and drama, dialogues, working group sessions, art work, art and performance advocacy, site visits, debates and practical sessions. The academy has created unique processes and approaches to building health promotion capacity to fight the HIV epidemic in Africa. The Academy learning focuses on community-to-community and community to non-community learning. The Academy has been a laboratory of innovative teaching methods- tailored to the local context and the recipients of the training. It uses a mix of field-based and classroom training to transfer the learnings from its experience in building and nurturing a community-led organization and spearheading a HIV-prevention model in Africa. The Academy is committed to enhancing KP-led processes and sex worker led initiatives in Africa towards the achievement of the SDG goals in different countries in the area of prevention, including combination prevention, community led test/treat and care and achieve the 90 90 90 targets set by UNAIDS.
The Academy was 7-days long starting on 2nd to 9th November 2020 and it involved female, male and transgender sex workers. The academy was facilitated by a team of trained faculty members who are also sex workers. The Training of SWAA pioneer faculty team occurred in 2014. Each SWAA academy trains averagely 20 sex workers from 3 to 4 different countries. The SWAA curriculum is drawn from SWIT (Sex Work Implementation Tool) and it has ten modules.
On Day 1, The participants were engaged in the preparation of their country presentations. A welcome dinner followed where the ASWA staff, faculty members, resource people, SWAA participants, Sex worker’s Bible (The SWIT), SWAA Programme were all introduced. The participants then signed photo consent forms to allow their pictures to be publicly posted.
Thereafter the participants expressed their hopes and fears during the training. The participants highlighted their hopes as follows: to gain knowledge and understand the sex workers bible (SWIT), learn how to disseminate the gained information and implement the skills and attitude learnt, interact and make friends and know human rights.
The participants depicted their fears as follows; fear of standing in front of people, being sick and miss the training, not gaining what they are supposed to know, language barrier during the presentation, how to be punctual especially after going out for some drinks, not mastering and implementing the knowledge and experience from the academy and that people shouldn’t violate sex workers for doing sex work.
The faculty team then asked the participants to come up with the ground rules that they were comfortable with and which they would adhere.
On Day 2, Module 1; Introduction of SWAA -After ‘Sexy Susan’ a game which assists the participants to know one another, followed by the concept, history, objectives and methodology of SWAA. SWAA is an initiative of ASWA. In 2012,sex workers from 4 African countries visited two sex worker-led collectives in India- Ashodaya Samithi in Mysore and VAMP in Sangli.This visit which was a bilateral exchange Programme supported by NSWP -Global Network of Sex-workers Project inspired the African sex workers to initiate SWAA that would combine the knowledge from Ashodaya and VAMP, and be adapted for the African context.
Grace Kamau, ASWA Regional Coordinator remarked that during the 23rd Sex Worker Academy,all the participants were equal,none was greater than the other,each was endowed with equal participation and without favoritism.
Bradley Njukia Muracia ASWA Board Member and Kenya Sex Workers Alliance (KESWA) Deputy National Coordinator underscored that movement building entails Internal needs assessment, clear strategic plan informed by members and Advocacy and communication strategy.
MODULE 2: Sex Workers’ Rights; The module focused on power Walk, Sex Workers’ Rights, Introduction of the NSWP Consensus Statement which is for global sex worker rights movement. It depicts 8 sex workers’ fundamental rights which have been recognised and ratified by most countries as fundamental human rights.
All Sex workers are entitled to these fundamental rights.
Also Legal frameworks, video on engaging with Right and an open zone discussion on criminalisation of Third Parties was discussed.
Day 3: The Country #1 presented their poster presentation: Ghana participants said ‘Ghana has no national sex workers-led movement, it is individual organisations doing their own things, although male sex workers exist in Ghana, there is no specific program targeting them, and the believe is that male sex workers don’t exist.
MODULE 3: Community Empowerment (SWIT Chapter 1) addressed that community empowerment is a process whereby sex workers take individual and collective ownership of programmes and also that it is a social movement that supports the self-organising and self-determination of sex workers. The elements of community empowerment are;
It was followed by demonstration site visit to HOYMAS.
MODULE 4: Addressing Violence (SWIT Chapter 2) elaborated violence against sex workers and also responding to violence against sex workers. Forms of Violence were depicted as follows physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence and human rights violation.
Day 4: The Country #2 presented their poster presentation:
MODULE 5: Community-Led Services (SWIT Chapter 3) explained that meaningful participation involves a genuine opportunity for sex workers to influence decision making and bring about change and that it is more than just consultation; sex workers are asked their views while others stakeholders retain all decision making power and also that safe spaces for sex workers are places where no outsiders are allowed without permission from the community, such as a Drop-in Centre.
It was followed by demonstration site visit to Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Program (BHESP). Later Community-led outreach services for sex workers and also Planning, implementing and monitoring outreach was discussed.
Day 5: The Country #3 presented their poster presentation
MODULE 6: Condom and Lubricant Programming (SWIT Chapter 4) explained condoms and lubricant programming in community-led services and followed by an open zone discussion on 100% Condom Use Programme
MODULE 7: Community-led Clinical Services (SWIT Chapter 5) well elaborated the clinical services for sex workers, referrals and linkage through peer educators and Community advisory boards and management committees
Day 6: MODULE 8: Programme Management (SWIT Chapter 6)
MODULE 9: Organisational Capacity Building (SWIT Chapter 6) where the organisational capacity building for sex worker-led organisations was highlighted and the introduction to organisational capacity scans was discussed .
Day 7: MODULE 10: Advocacy what is advocacy, Introduction to developing an advocacy plan and developing an advocacy plan to support the roll out of the SWIT.
The SWAA Coordinator Laveria Mwai said ASWA would provide a small grant to the countries which attended the academy and also ASWA would be doing country follow-up to ensure that the country advocacy plan would be implemented. She added that the country follow-up visit is meant to provide technical support to countries that participated in the Academy. The technical support assists in firming up the national advocacy action plan their representative to the Academy developed and that ASWA would sit down with them to help them internalize the plan and think through on how best to effectively implement the plans including the lessons learned during SWAA. During the visits, ASWA team works with local sex workers from different sex worker-led organizations in the country, SWAA graduates and the leaders from national movement to not only validate the national action plan developed during the Academy but also build the sex workers capacity in leadership. The validation meeting is used to help the country Sex worker group figure out how to spend the small grant given and assist the team in budgeting the small grant for the proposed activities.
Art (and painting canvas) and Performance Advocacy: involved discussion on the use of visual art and performance; paintings, performing, drawings, visual design, film, video, screen, photography, music, computer art and dance to communicate a clear message which is visible to decision makers and is able to harness the influence of an advocacy network.
Demonstration Site Visit
The demonstration sites are Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Program (BHESP) and Health Options for Young Men with HIV and AIDS and STI (HOYMAS), Accordingly, in BHESP the paralegal system, the drop-in centre and a home-based sex work setting was identified for demonstration. Similarly, in HOYMAS the good rapport they had built with the government healthcare provision, their home-based care for sex workers living with HIV and their outreach in a bar was prepared for showcasing their work to the visitors. Since then, the two sites have been used as demo sites during SWAA academies.
The training venue is friendly to the sex workers community and also centrally located making it easier to access the 2 demo sites.
GRADUATION PARTY where the participants graduated and were offered certificates.