ASWA Online Discussion
African sex workers celebrated the Sex Workers Pride Day with style, enthusiasm and pomp. The theme for the day was ‘sex work our pride’. From South Africa all the way to the West of Africa, the female, male and transgender sex workers joined the online discussion that was organized by ASWA, the regional Sex Workers Alliance. The absolute best way to celebrate the day was to outline their key achievements which are hard to come by given the hostile environment in which they operate. It was also an interesting and enjoyable moment where the sex workers leaders from the sub-regions shared their experiences that broadened the sex workers horizon.
Daisy Nakato from UNESO -Uganda Network for Sex Worker-led Organizations said that she is very proud of being a sex worker and she has no regret. She highlighted that the pandemic has been instrumental in the documentation of human rights violations. She added that there is a need for a resilience fund to meet the emerging eventualities of sex workers. She alluded that the pandemic has taught the need to be more organized, resilient and strategize for uncertainties and eventualities.
Grace Kamau ASWA regional coordinator was in her element during the opening session. Vivacious as always, she warmly welcomed the almost 100 online participants, to the online discussion. She described the e-meeting as an opportunity to e-convene activists from across the African continent, allies and funders so that together we could celebrate our key and remarkable achievements, highlight our organizing during the pandemic and also depict what opportunities COVID-19 presented. She added the need for us to rethink strategies to build stronger movement to curb pandemics. She explained that more economic options were needed to give the sex workers more options to improve their lives, she however clarified that the economic options are not meant to stop sex work. She said that Aswa is available to offer reference to sex workers groups.
Amaka Enemo from Nigeria Sex Workers Association called for alternative livelihoods for sex workers as they will assist during the unplanned pandemic.
Lungile Khumalo from Voice of Our Voices in Eswatini proposed the need for sex workers to engage in activities that would increase the economic options for sex workers. She outlined them engaging in savings and also agriculture where they would grow vegetables and be assisted in finding market for their produce. Her dream is to have an African sex workers bank, where sex workers can borrow, invest and use their economic power.
Patrick Fotso from Cameroon, Alcondoms Cameroun recommended a long-term vision on rapid response.
Nguru Karugu, Public Health Innovations (PHI) Inc. and the moderator said that it is important to celebrate ourselves for continuing the work during these difficult times. He added that we must always take time to acknowledge our own efforts in the work we all do. He said we are expressing pride even by expressing the idea to team up in developing, maintaining and utilizing strategic partnerships to support us in pushing for our advocacy for a resilience fund. This would assist us go beyond the short term responsive interventions which will ensure that sex workers are empowered at all levels.He also started a conversation around sustainability beyond funding but also considering the available non-financial resources that can facilitate our work towards fulfilling our agenda as the sex worker movement. He expressed that there is a need to celebrate the partners that supported sex workers during the pandemic. Some of the donors who have supported the community with emergency funds during the COVID-19 are; Frontline AIDS, UHAI, Aidsfonds, Mama Cash, Red Umbrella fund, Urgent Action Fund, ASWA, Global Fund, OSIEA, AJWS.
Kouame Akoua Pélagie from Conscience Et Vie Ivory Coast alluded that there was so much violence in Ivory Coast and also the border closure greatly affected the sex workers.
Sally Shackleton from Frontline AIDS said that Frontline AIDS is an agent for EJAF (Elton John Aids Foundation) and is mandated to distribute the EJAF grant. She announced that Frontline AIDS engaged 9 grants that support sex workers in 47 countries. She particularly mentioned 2 new grants: Emergency supply funding to provide supplies of medical commodities and urged sex workers to apply for a catalytic fund that focuses on finding innovative ways to keep local HIV services in operation during the crisis, such as moving services online or beginning remote distribution of medication and HIV prevention supplies. She urged the applicants to apply something different and which is evidence based. She added the requirements of 2 referees who should use organizational emails for due diligence and should respond quickly when called upon to ascertain and authenticate the details of the organisations. She explained that the application should clearly address the problem and well link how the solutions will be provided-a flow of the solutions towards addressing the problem. She also encouraged the applicants to report well – honestly and clearly since these reports help to argue for continued funding and are very useful to report back to EJAF on the impact of the funding. She also shared the link for information about the Rapid Response fund for key populations and Covid;
Musa Haron from Kenya asked if Frontline AIDS has a feedback mechanism to inform on errors done in proposals submission to aid in future proposal writing. Sally resounded by saying that since the fund is an emergency fund, they often don’t have time to feedback in the week they have for processing the proposals. She added that they try their best, but it is not always possible.
Grace said we should be proud of the realized remarkable achievements’ and also believe that with unity and solidarity we will definitely achieve our intended goals. She finalized by asking sex workers in Africa to identify advocacy gaps and ASWA would support to fill them.
All in all, this day is to be celebrated annually not just by sex workers only, but also by everyone else who appreciates, utilizes, and benefits from the service of sex work.