The third edition of the Africa Leadership Sex Workers Academy (ALESWA) kicked off from 16th to 22nd of March 2023 in the Kenyan capital -Nairobi.
ALESWA is a new knowledge and capacity model whose objective is to strengthen the capacity of emerging and existing sex workers leaders to create a robust sex workers movement in Africa. ALESWA is an extensive knowledge and skills building training model to build the resilience of individuals and organizations in the next three years.
The focus areas are the Africa human rights frameworks underpinning social protection for marginalised groups such as sex workers. Social protection refers to measures aimed at preventing and addressing situations which negatively affect people’s well being, as well as measures which reduce vulnerability and facilitate social and economic stability.
The following are the faculty members;
- Mary Mwangi
- Melvin Oginge
- Ostreous Olevin
- Felix Otieno
- Samuel Githaiga
- Nicole Ondisa
- Sylvia Okoth
Participants came from 3 East African countries namely;
The 18 participants came from the following organisations:
1. Uganda Network of Sex Workers Organizations (UNESO)
2. Women’s Positive Empowerment Initiative
3. Service Workers in Group Foundation Uganda
4. Dream Center for Women Empowerment
5. Organization for Gender Empowerment & Rights Advocacy
6. Trans Advocacy Initiative Uganda
1. Women With Dignity
2. Unit Group Njombe
5. East Africa Sex Workers Alliance (EASWA)
6. Shinyanga Tuinuane Vijana
KENYA (Kenya Sex Workers Alliance)
1. Divas Of Changamwe
2. Kisumu Sex Workers Alliance (KISWA)
3. Coast Sex Workers Alliance (COSWA)
4. Smart Ladies KP Organization
5. SWOP Ambassadors
6. True Vine Mentors
The objective of the training is to enable the participants to understand the following:
- The Human Rights Framework
- Social protection issues for sex workers
- The necessity of social protection and SRHR on sex work and sex workers
- The survey methodology
- And finally, to understand and conduct the survey on social protection and SRHR issues
- Forge ways to effectively build a unified and transformative movement of sex workers
- To understand more on leadership program and skills
- Learn about ALESWA and its main focus
- Improve leadership capacity in sustainable sex work programming and organizing
- How to cope up with pressure as a leader of a criminalized community
- To enhance my security skills during advocacy for sex workers
- Solidify sex workers advocacy
- Know the milestones of East Africa sex workers Movement.
- To know the mandate of UNHCR and also understand the status and the rights of the migrant, refugees and asylum seekers sex workers
- To exchange ideas
Africa Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) Regional Coordinator Grace Kamau said that ALESWA will facilitate bringing the non-conventional and also emerging donors to start funding sex workers in Africa.
The faculty members explained some of the human rights mechanism as follows;
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was defined as an international legal instrument that requires countries to eliminate discrimination against women and girls in all areas and promotes women’s and girls’ equal rights. Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women. CEDAW has 30 articles and is often referred to as the ‘women’s bill of rights’ and was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 December, 1979. 189 countries have ratified CEDAW.
It was discussed that under Maputo Protocol, States Parties are called upon to take all appropriate measures to “protect the reproductive rights of women by authorizing medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother. Countries that have not ratified protocol were listed as follows; Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Egypt, Madagascar, South Sudan, and Sudan to urgently ratify the Protocol.
On Article 14 Health and Reproductive Rights; States Parties shall ensure that the right to health of women, including sexual and reproductive health is respected and promoted.
Graduates and their advocacy messages
Clara Devis, Tanzania: ‘Im a Trans woman, Sex worker feminist, activist and human rights defender. Iam the Regional Coordinator East Africa Sex Workers Alliance (EASWA). The African Leadership Sex Workers Academy supported by ASWA Academy has meaningfully engaged the sex workers leaders in all diversity which is an advantage for the movement. The information and knowledge gained is very valuable as it underpins social protection schemes that we as sex workers, can use to capacity build ourselves. This too will broaden the reach to sex worker abled differently and the albino sex workers by tailoring the curriculum to suit their needs, with in depth, well sought practical information.’
Loulou Ayoub, Tanzania: ‘Attending the ALESWA has enabled me to think beyond the daily to daily routine as at first, I thought in my country decriminalization of sex work might be a nightmare due to the existing punitive laws but through some of the sessions within ALESWA, I realized a committed and well-informed community of sex workers can be of great influence for change using the existing Global legal frame work.’
Mariam Milongo, Tanzania: ‘I am overjoyed to attend ALESWA. I congratulate ASWA for organizing ALESWA because it has given me the skills and knowledge to go to collect information about the challenges of female sex workers in Tanzania and also advocate on how to solve those challenges.’
Oliver Ndalo, Tanzania: ‘I learnt to engage on the leadership that empowers sex workers to easily access social justice, social protection and SRHR.’
Martha Charles, Tanzania: ‘First of all, I would like to congratulate ASWA for being able to come up with ALESWA, this is a very good program because it brings us all together and can give us the opportunity to learn how to organize our programs but also to know how to do advocacy to support all sex workers. My request to ASWA is to ensure ALESWA is sustainable and scaled up.
Henry Bruce Kafuluma, Uganda: ‘Attending ALESWA has been one of the most exciting opportunities during this unstable security situation in Uganda. I learnt on the global human rights framework which is key for the protection of sex workers in Africa.’
Stellah Nassuna, Uganda: ‘I have been into Sex Work activism for a decade influencing national and county policy around HIV service delivery but ALESWA curriculum has deepened my insight and now I know when and how to develop strategic partnerships and with whom to do collaborations with to maximize impact of my advocacy for equity and equality of sex workers in accessing services and opportunities.’
Nakato Ciara, Uganda: ‘Attending the ALESWA academy has capacitated me by exploring the different spectrums of leadership, social protection to best advocate for the rights of trans sex workers but also empowering them to claim for their sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in an environment that fully respects and supports them to thrive and blossom their potentials and abilities. Big thanks to ASWA for the space. ??’
Namirro Lillian, Uganda: ‘Am happy for being part of the ALESWA Program because I have learnt more on the global legal framework which will help me as a leader to do strategic advocacy.’
Gloria Kajjumba, Uganda: ‘Being the 3rd cohort of ALESWA has capacitated me on constructive research for evidence-based advocacy for social protection and comprehensive SRHR services tailored and guaranteed to Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer and Urban refugee female sex workers to improve our well-being in Uganda along with strengthening the Global Sex Work movement.’
Nakiwu Topista, Uganda: ‘The ALESWA training has been a great learning opportunity for me as it has enhanced my understanding about how to use the global human rights framework in advocating for sex workers rights, how to collect data for advocacy but also learning how to advocate for access to social protection and justice among sex workers. I look forward to implementing the knowledge I learned.’
Truphena Ayieta, Kenya: ‘The ALESWA academy has empowered me to raise the voice of sex workers for visibility and advocate for the human dignity of this diverse community free from stigma and discrimination.’
Laureen Oduor, Kenya: ‘As much as citizens have a right to social protection, most sex workers do not benefit from it due to the nature of work and diversity. Having attended the third ALESWA training, I am able to collect data that will inform advocacy for social protection and SRHR.
Christine Nthenya, Kenya: ‘Being part of the ALESWA has been a game-changer in my activism career. The training has empowered me on how to better use the global human rights framework for well-informed advocacy to fight for the realization of sex workers rights in accessing social protection services because social protection is a fundamental human right.
Elizabeth Atieno Onyango, Kenya: ‘I was born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya. I was privileged to attend the 3rd African Leadership Sex Workers Academy supported by ASWA where I learned that in order to have a strong sustainable movement for sex workers we need to start having conversations that are beyond sex and diseases and start working towards accessible, quality and inclusive social protection services for sex workers in all our diversities.’
Hassan Adeko, Kenya: ‘As an alumnus of ALESWA, I take note of the strides and growth in the sex work movement in Africa for the last decade. However, we are not where we want to be due to structural and socio- cultural barriers. Social protection and access to sexual reproduction and health right services need to be prioritized and cascaded to service delivery points.’
Asina Saidi, Kenya: ‘I have been privileged to attend the third cohort of this Academy. ALESWA has made me realize that sex workers too have labour rights and the International Labour Organisation recognizes sex work as informal economy. Recognise sex work as labour will help create a diverse, resilient, better and a socially inclusive working environment for sex workers.’
East Africa Sex Workers Alliance (EASWA) Coordinator Clara Davis said that sex workers’ organisations should conduct an assessment to understand why refugees sex workers leave their countries and the challenges they face as they leave their countries and also how they identify themselves to the migration departments for example as LGBTQ or sex workers. The results of the assessment should be used for advocacy for the promotion of the rights of the refugees and migrant sex workers.
The facilitators urged the participants to learn how to ensure the sustainability of sex workers programs. The participants in Tanzania shared how they engaged in advocacy that stopped the anal examinations. The participants were urged to use the human rights mechanisms to advocate for the rights of sex workers.
The participants recommended that ALESWA should include training on mental wellness and also how sex workers leaders should manage their mental challenges like how to handle stress while advocating for the rights of the criminalized community.