Sisonke – Botswana

Project Info

Project Description

SISONKE is a national organization run by sex workers for sex workers in Botswana. Formed in April 2010, SISONKE brought together 20 sex workers from South Africa and Botswana. The founding members of SISONKE wanted to take responsibility for bringing change within the sex worker community and stand up for their rights.

Members are men and women from Botswana. Currently, a voluntary leadership team of seven sex workers heads SISONKE. The organization is a nested partner within BONELA, an organization that advocates for equal human rights for stigmatized groups.

SISONKE is a national organization run by sex workers for sex workers in Botswana. Formed in April 2010, SISONKE brought together 20 sex workers from South Africa and Botswana. The founding members of SISONKE wanted to take responsibility for bringing change within the sex worker community and stand up for their rights.

Members are men and women from Botswana. Currently, a voluntary leadership team of seven sex workers heads SISONKE. The organization is a nested partner within BONELA, an organization that advocates for equal human rights for stigmatized groups.

SISONKE’S DESIRE FOR CHANGE

SISONKE supports the call for decriminalizing sex work because this will enable sex workers to access to fundamental rights of equality, self-esteem, privacy, and free profitable movement. Sex work would be defined as legal employment, and this then means that sex workers will be protected by the same laws as other workers.

ISSUES  AFFECTING SEX WORKERS

Health

Sex workers face significant health risk within their profession. Specific risk stems from various factors of sex work. Workers often have knowledge about HIV/AIDS, STIs and safer sex practices, but do not always apply this knowledge. Sex work is stressful, which affects the health of sex workers, but support is often unavailable. Due to this inherent stress, some sex workers turn to alcohol and drugs as a coping strategy; however, this makes sex workers vulnerable to exploitation by clients. Within the current system, access to sympathetic clinics for health problems is difficult, and information about the dangers of drug and drug addiction is not readily available.

Safety

Sex workers face many dangers and difficulties from their clients. Sex workers may be faced with clients that want sex without a condom, and use violence to achieve their aims, stolen property, assault from clients, and harassment by police officers that may result in forced sexual activity by said officers.

Stigma

The stigma of sex work often leaves sex workers very isolated to other sectors of society. Sex workers face stigma from communities, their families and the general public. This affects the quality of life of sex workers. The negative stigma can affect the ability of sex workers to find a place to stay, and also to find work outside the sex work industry. Sex workers also sometimes stigmatize themselves because they feel ashamed of the work they do. The poor conduct of a few sex workers can reflect badly on other sex workers.

SISONKE wishes to address these important issues through its work in promoting the rights of sex workers within Botswana.

SISONKE is the only movement that runs by sex workers for sex workers.

AIMS OF SISONKE

  • Uniting sex workers
  • Improving sex workers living and working conditions
  • Fighting for equal access to rights
  • Building understanding and acceptance through open dialogue about sex work and improving relationships with the public

VISION

Respect for human rights for all sex workers.

MISSION STATEMENT

To contribute to improved human rights status of all sex workers by designing and implementing innovative, evidence-based and cost-effective advocacy campaigns capable of influencing public policy and practice in the field of human rights.

GOALS

It is vital for sex workers to know what their rights are within the current legal system, understand how to access these rights, discern what resources are available, and understand how to take care of themselves and their colleagues when working.