The 18th Sex Worker Academy Africa (SWAA) has kicked off in Nairobi with 18 sex workers from Kenya, The Gambia and Madagascar.
This is the first time The Gambia and Madagascar are taking part in the academy, the third this year.
The SWAA is a ground-breaking learning programme for community empowerment and capacity building led by and for sex workers. The Academy brings together sex workers’ national teams from across Africa to develop organising skills, learn best practices, stimulate national sex worker movements, and strengthen the regional network. SWAA aims to strengthen the sex workers’ rights movement across Africa, through building the capacity of sex workers to engage in policy, programme development, and implementation, and through strengthening sex worker led organisations, and national sex workers’ networks.
Participants have been picked from various sex worker led groups in these countries. From Madagascar, those attending the academy are from Samaritans Women’s Association, which is one of the oldest organisations working with sex workers in the country.
Sex work is legal in Madagascar. However, related activities such as soliciting, procuring, living off earnings of sex work or keeping a brothel are prohibited. Public laws are also used to harass and arrest sex workers and their clients. According to the law ‘consorting with female sex workers’ is a crime.
Sex workers say law enforcement is arbitrary and abusive.
Due to its attraction as a tourist destination, Madagascar is faced with high cases of human trafficking, which has also compounded problems facing sex workers.
The Gambia is represented by sex workers from Worldview. The group works with sex workers, MSM and Injecting Drug Users in The Gambia and Senegal. Due to the political, social and religious factors, sex workers have to work within other organisations.
Sex work is illegal in the country. Like Madagascar, The Gambia is a source and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking. An anti-trafficking law passed in 2007 is often misused to harass sex workers especially those from neighbouring countries.
Despite the limitations, sex workers have a strong network countrywide. The have their leaders and they organise social events. They make contributions to assist each other through what is locally known as ‘Osusu’ or simply merry-go round, a common method for financial subsistence in the country.