The Impacts Of Sex Workers Academy Africa (SWAA)

The Sex Worker Academy Africa (SWAA)

SWAA is a ground-breaking sex worker-led academy.It started in 2014 and it aims at strengthening sex workers’ rights movement across Africa. The Academy has been developed as a Pan-African resource to build the capacity of sex workers and sex worker national movements.


Goal and objectives:

The aim of SWAA is to strengthen the sex workers’ rights movement across Africa,
through building the capacity of sex workers to engage in policy and program development and implementation and through strengthening sex worker-led organizations and national networks. Specifically, SWAA aims to;

(i) strengthen community role in rights-based HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programs,

(ii) enable sex workers understand components of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, including community empowerment and responses to violence,

(iii). enable sex workers understand different legal approaches to sex work,

(iv). assist sex workers to develop strategies to strengthen rights of sex workers, and

(v). develop skills in shaping advocacy strategies in their respective countries.

The following is the summary of the SWAA in terms of the year,the participating countries and the key highlights and outcomes.

YearParticipating countryKey highlights and outcomes 
2014KenyaTraining of SWAA Pioneer Faculty Team 
 Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, KenyaFormation of the Nigeria sex workers Association and strengthening of HOSDAS in Congo. 
 Tanzania,Zimbabwe,KenyaPrior to the Academy, Zimbabwe did not have a sex workers’ rights movement. On returning home,the team from Zimbabwe started a national sex worker movement, called Zimbabwe Sex Workers Alliance (ZIMSWA) 
2015Malawi, Uganda, KenyaThe Malawi country team created the Malawi Sex Workers Alliance (MASWA), a national network of female, male and transgender sex workers. 
 Burundi, South Africa,KenyaStrengthening of the KESWA members that attended this academy and it led to the formation of Smart Ladies in Nakuru and Laikipia Peer Educators (LAPEED). 
 Namibia, Rwanda, KenyaThe Namibian sex workers could now tackle violence directed to them more vehemently since they had gained the skills from SWAA. 
 South Sudan, Mauritius,KenyaFormation of a sex workers network in South Sudan known as HORAK
2016Mozambique, Kenya GhanaFormation of a sex worker movement in Mozambique and Ghana
 Senegal, Kenya ,LesothoFormation of a sex workers movement in Lesotho,Sex workers in Lesotho now sit in their CCM
 Eswatini (Swaziland), Kenya, CameroonStrengthening of sex workers movement in Swaziland
 Togo, Kenya, BotswanaSISONKE Botswana regained its power after attending the SWAA
 Zambia, Kenya, Cote d’IvoireFormation of ZASWA the national movement of sex workers in Zambia
 Zimbabwe, Kenya, EthiopiaThe NIKAT team in Ethiopia embraced working with the diverse populations i.e. PWIDS , SWs and LGBTIQ+
2017Tanzania, Kenya, Sierra LeoneFormation of TASWA which later on changed to Women with Dignity in Tanzania
 Benin, Kenya, UgandaSex workers in Benin can now organize freely and hold their government to task
 Liberia, Burkina Faso, KenyaSex worker organizing in the two West Africa countries is in still in its formative stages and community members are pushing to take the lead
in advocacy.
2018South Africa, Eswatini,Angola, 
 Gambia, Mali, Madagascar, 
 Guinea, South Sudan, Ivory Coast 
2019Seychelles, Malawi, Kenya 
 Kenya, Tunisia, Zambia 
 2020Rwanda, Uganda, KenyaFormation of Rwanda sex workers Alliance and other new organisations in Uganda.
2021Nigeria,Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),Kenya

Sarah Akinyi,the pioneer Faculty Member and the Executive Director at Empowered Ladies Initiative for equality shares the impact of Sex Workers Academy Africa (SWAA).

‘’My name is Sarah Akinyi.I am the Executive Director at Empowered Ladies Initiative for equality (ELITE LBQ), and I am a queer sex worker from Busia -border of Kenya and Uganda. I am one of the pioneer faculty members since the conception of the Sex Workers Academy Africa (SWAA). We went for the South-to-south learning and came back and contextualize what we learned in India to what we as African sex workers would relate to. And since that time, it has been a great, great experience. I’ve seen people grow. I personally have grown and to an extent able to now run an organization as executive director. All of this has been through the capacity and the empowerment that I have received at the Sex Workers Academy Africa. As one of the pioneer faculty members of the Academy, I must say that I’ve seen tremendous growth in the Academy since inception. I have seen countries like Tanzania that did not have sex workers movement in their country come to the academy and go back and form their own national movement of sex workers. And they are growing and they’re really showing that they’re doing amazing work, and all this is due to the capacity that they received at the academy.

Countries like Uganda had a sex workers movement, but it wasn’t very strong at that moment. After coming to the academy, they went back and they made national network of national movement for Sex workers, actually really strong. And you can see the amazing work that they’re doing.

Countries that have stringent rules like Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and many other African countries, Seychells, Senegal, name them. They’ve been to the academy and they’ve learned and they went back and implemented.

Till today we see very vibrant national sex workers movement in the different African countries. And all this is through the sex workers academy. We’ve seen people coming to the academy who are a little bit confused in terms of organizing. They do not know how to do that, how to do their advocacy. They don’t know how to program. But when they come to the academy, they plan on how to do advocacy at a national, local, regional and even global level.”

Listen Sarah here: https://youtu.be/NVNuj8I-XBA

Nehemiah Kakpo, the Program Coordinator of the Association Solidarité in Benin participated in Sex Workers Academy Africa in 2017.

Nehemiah Kakpo from Benin

He shares his views on the impact of SWAA . ”My participation in the Academy was really a success for me, my group, sex workers and other key populations in Benin.I learnt the basics on how to do advocacy, how to prepare an advocacy plan and implement it. When we returned to the country, we had to carry out several advocacy processes.

My participation in this academy enabled the start and growth of new sex workers organisations across Benin.

The skills, knowledge and attitudes shared in the academy have supported the growth of these associations.

And also, our association which started at the grassroot level has today become the national network which covers the entire territory of Benin. Thank you.’’

Listen to Nehemiah here

Emmaculate Kawira,the director of I-Protect Kenya,a sex workers-led organisation in Meru County in Kenya shared the impacts of SWAA as follows;

”Our organization was formed with the aim of empowering sex workers in this county and ensuring that our voices are upheld.

By participating in Sex Workers Academy in Africa, we managed to make friends that is networking, and we were able to know the different approaches that other organizations take in advocating for the sex workers rights. And also our relationship with the national organizations was enhanced. This has been an eye opener for us, and we are now able to effectively advocate and talk about our rights in county.

 Another thing that was beneficial to us is strengthening the organizational gaps that we highlighted. And this has ensured that the organization has structures and these structures are well implemented. And we can now say that our organization has the right policies.

One more thing that has been beneficial to us is ensuring that we have the know how to advocate for the sex workers rights and this is the knowledge that we gained.

We also gained skills on how best to communicate our issues to the right-minded organisations within the county and also to air our issues without causing chaos and getting to know who we are going to work within the county. This has been beneficial to us since the projects that we have in our county have been effective and they have been community led.
And this has empowered the sex workers because they are involved directly in the project implementation.
Also, we have managed to empower our sex workers through inclusion which means our projects including sex workers who are HIV positive and sex workers who use and injecting drugs.”

Listen to Emmaculate here

Gregory Brighton, Executive Director of Zimbabwe Sex Workers Alliance (ZIMSWA) shares the impact of Sex Workers Academy Africa (SWAA) as follows:

‘’Iam the Executive Director,the founder and the National Coordinator of Zimbabwe Sex Workers Alliance is a national sex workers-led organization  that works to advance Sexual and legal rights of sex workers. So we attended the Academy in September of 2014 we were the first team to attend the Academy, together with Team from Tanzania. After attending the academy, we came back home and formalized ourselves because we could find that there were sex workers groups, collectives and individuals, but they were only scattered in the country. So we formalized ourselves bringing together sex workers. And then that led to the formation of Sex Workers led organization that is ZIMSWA now, which is a vibrant sex workers organization. And It’s getting stronger and now it’s got about 22 members’’.

Listen to Gregory Brighton here