Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA) is a sex worker led organization established in 2008 by 3 passionate and determined sexworkers who have faced harassment, insults, stigma, discrimination and arrest without trial by misinformed societies and who have been stirred into responsive action concerning the plight of other sexworkers in the same working environment.
Founders: Kyomya Macklean; Nakato Daisy; Namagembe Zam
‘‘A legal adult sex work industry in Uganda, to improve our living and working conditions and to fight for equal access to rights so that sex workers’ human rights are defended and protected”
“To work with adult sex workers to:
• Promote access to health, legal, and social services for sex workers.
• Promote safer sex practices and sex workers’ health and well being.
• Organize sex workers to claim their rights including setting standards for fair and safe working conditions.
• Call for quality health and human rights support, including the documentation and exposure of human rights violations and stigmatization
• Build partnership, synergy and capacity so as to promote the voices of sex workers as leaders in service delivery.
• Call for decriminalization of adult sex work in Uganda.
Why focus on rights of sexworkers?
Research conducted by OSI indicates that, “Rights Not Rescue approach” should be the way forward because sex workers are facing a health and human rights crisis in Uganda, yet very little is being done to protect their rights. Also research done across Africa shows that criminalization of sex work leaves sex workers particularly vulnerable to sexual, psychological and physical abuse from law enforcement officials and the general public. Sex workers experience routine violence from police, cruel clients and the general public at large, including rape, physical assault, and having their genitals sprayed with pepper-spray.
In recent engagement of government by sex workers who are members of WONETHA to have sex work decriminalized, sex workers sought to claim their fundamental right to social and economic freedom, equality, dignity, and privacy.
Firstly, decriminalization enables the sex industry to be regulated thereby reducing violence against sex workers and cases of human trafficking. It is the oppressors and those committing violence against women who want sex work to remain illegal. Secondly, Where sex work is illegal HIV prevalence increases due to difficulties in accessing health care prevention initiatives. Research conducted in Uganda shows that the rates of HIV infections among sex workers is higher than the general population: 28.2% in 2001 and 47.2% in 2003 (STD/AIDS Control Program MOH, 2003) 32.8% in 2009 (The Crane Survey, 2009).
Source from the presentation of Dr. David Tigawalana from UAC; firstname.lastname@example.org on Health, HIV and TB Literacy Seminar for Sex Workers, 27th-28th April 2010 organized by Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy.
In the New vision of 19th 05 2009 Dr Kihumuro Apuli, Director of Uganda AIDS Commission stated that HIV prevalence among sex workers is 50% and 10% are male clients between the age of (15-49). Despite these facts the National Strategic Plan which is the Uganda’s Coordination Tool/ guide for the Control of HIV and AIDS, sex workers have not been given apriority or involved in the planning.
As a sex worker Organization we are deeply concerned that this situation is alarming despite Uganda’s role model image in previous years in the fight of HIV & AIDS. WONETHA emphasizes that the current sex worker situation in Uganda calls for immediate action and if the government does not come out to act then Uganda will lose the battle on HIV/AIDS. Unless all women are free no woman is free by Solome Kimbugwe Nakawesa. Justification The widespread abuse, lack of legal protections, and poor working conditions have compromised the ability of sex workers to access health services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) particularly HIV. Discrimination by health care providers and fear of abuse often prevents sex workers – particularly transgender sexworkers – from seeking health care or accessing antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to treat HIV. Some HIV-positive sexworkers choose to die without ARVs rather than go to the hospital where they will be arrested, humiliated, and treated as less than human beings. The attitude largely prevails that a sex worker cannot be raped, as sex work is a criminal offence. The standing laws and law enforcement practice treats them unequally and denies them access to normal civic protection.
In society, sex workers are heavily stigmatized: being named, shamed and labeled as immoral, abhorrent and a threat to society. They are often blamed for drug dealing and spreading HIV/AIDS. Sex workers are a popularly “accepted” target of hate crime – people feel justified in harassing and abusing them. For decades many organisations have come up to help and support sex workers in Uganda. Sadly sex workers have been looked down upon as regards to decision making. A few organizations have ventured into rehabilitation however, with little success.
WONETHA idea was born of the urgent need for the vulnerable sexworkers to break away from the exploitative and manipulative hand of pseudo sex worker support organizations. It set out to empower sexworkers with life and entrepreneurship skills such as self-esteem, decision making, self confidence and negotiation skills. Initially efforts to achieve the above goal have registered minimal success due to the fact that many potential organizations shy away from the struggle for decriminalization of sex work in Uganda because decriminalization would enable sex workers access fundamental rights of equality, privacy, dignity and free economic activity.
1.Outreach and Support
2. Advocacy and Partnership
3.Leadership and Capacity Building
1. The Outreach and Support Programme aims to overcome barriers and suspicion by reaching out to and engaging sex workers through building trust and sharing information and providing access to resources. The work includes addressing immediate health, human rights and safety concerns as well as offering sexual reproductive and human rights education. The aim is to mobilize, empower and document violations and give sex workers a voice and access to services to address health and legal and social issues.
Activities: • Moblisation • Condom distribution • Education on human rights and sexual reproductive health • Building trust and relationships with sex workers • Counselling • Referral • Record keeping and documentation
2. The Advocacy and Networking Programme aims to build partnerships with sex workers and other civil society groups so as to give input to legislative and policy issues directly impacting upon sex workers and challenge human rights violations. This programme mobilizes sex workers and gives voice to the different stories through self generated media productions and engagement with the media thereby influencing public and political attitudes towards sex work. This programme works in partnership with other organisation, locally, nationally and internationally.
Activities: • Mobilisation and awareness raising • Media campaign • Demonstration and petitions • Submissions on policy and laws • Documentation • Litigation • Training of Police • Coalition building
3. The Leadership and Capacity Programme aims to build self confidence and skills of sex workers, both those wishing to remain within sex work and those wishing to leave sex work. The program is committed to building upon the resilience sex workers shown in the face of stigmatisation and often coming from backgrounds which did not include access to basic life enriching resources like education and life and entrepreneurship skills.
Activities: • Training and development of Peer Educators • Creative Space • Mentoring • Saving Scheme • Literacy • Leadership training Approaches • Social justice approach • Right based approach • Feminist approach • Peer Model approach • Systems theory approach • Sex Positive – the courage to be powerful Goals and Objectives • Sex workers to be reorganized • Sex workers coming out to claim their space and voices • To have quality information and professional services • Capacity to deliver services • Financial and professional stability • Media reporting • Human face of sex workers • Public awareness of sex workers health, human rights and stigmatisation • Sex workers claim their space and voice • Influencing law and policy on sex work • Cases taken to court • Education and awareness on human rights defence and Sexual reproductive health • Human rights defence and reproductive health for sex workers • Access to quality information and health service. • Documentation of health and human rights violations • Good record keeping on situation of sex work and work undertaken • Strong Coalitions supporting sex work • Mobilized and organized network of sex workers •
Activities known of what WONETHA does is known • Cases taken to court and legal redress
• Provide advice and information through outreach to emerging organizations formal and informal organizations will be our priority.
• Monitor priority policy issues; analyze them with reference to sex workers rights and WONETHA
• Building and maintain Partnerships and networkers at local, national and international human rights, women’s organizations, health centres and sex workers NGOs.
• Lobbying and advocate for equity and inclusiveness of sex workers in our National strategic
• To ensure that sex workers are recognized for their full agency and capacity to make their own decisions and to promote the idea that sex workers are strong women and feminists in their own way.
• Maintain and update members with organization records
• Develop promotional material to raise awareness of the NSWP and attract new members
• Actively promoting and publicize WONETHA’s work, through TV talk shows and Radios, organizing campaigns, educational programmes, counselling, issuing press releases, petition, holding conferences/workshops, and taking other steps to promote public awareness of WONETHA,
• Provide members with information and opportunities to participate in WONETHA activities.
• Disseminate regular updates and briefing papers to WONETHA members
• Implement new information communication technologies for sharing information that strengthen advocacy and capacity at local, regional and global levels.
• Research, documenting and exposing sex workers human rights violations through advocacy.
• Disseminate publications, videos and other materials that support sex workers claims for human rights and rights based services.
• Resources required: Staff and IT & website consultants; communication, office and operating costs; IT setup costs; web and mail hosting.
• Preparation of reports for donors and members
• Preparation of funding proposals • Resources required: Staff & facilitation consultant; communication, office and operational costs; translation; copy editing, graphic design, proof reading, printing and distribution costs; travel, subsistence & venue hire.
WHAT HAS WONETHA ACHIEVED SINCE 2008?
We wish to stress the fact that we have not yet achieved many of our goals due to a number of issues; The illegal status of sex work; Divisions within the sex work industry; The secrecy around sex work; Illiteracy among sexworkers; Finding appropriate places to meet; Maintaining a network of connections.;Fear of coming out of the closet/opening up; Limited financial support due our vision (for travel, training and activities etc) • Shameful reporting by the press ;Lack of legal services and support for sexworkers.
However, we have been able to reach out emotionally to our fellow sexworkers through counseling and our outreach programme, which has served to bring us closer together and share
• WONETHA is a sex worker led organization
• WONETHA has also managed to reach out to the public and policy makers through talk shows on televisions and radio stations and through newspaper articles and editorials, here we have started an awareness campaign.
• For the first time WONETHA influenced the appositive media reporting about sex workers who are still in the sex worker industry, Radios and Papers eg http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/907924/-/wy0vx5/-/index.html
• Organized a workshop for 55sex workers on building capacity of sex workers on HIV and TB literacy peer education.
• Attended feminist leadership trainings organized by AMwA, CREA, OSI and AWLI for sex workers to strengthen our capacity in Organization development
• Developed relations with sex workers, police, HIV activists, Women and Human Rights organization both at national and international level, SWEAT in South Africa, Bar hostess in Nairobi, Serviver in Busia, AMWA, FIDA-Uganda, UNFPA, MARPI (most at risk population initiatives),UAC, Ministry of Health, Academia’s ( Dr Sylvia Tamale, Dr Twinomugisha Ben, Prof Joe Onyango) and some other individual who understand our situation such as Marcy Berline New York, Hope Chiggudu Zimbabwe and Devi Leiper from Lewuid University Sweden.
• WONETHA has managed to register 360 members and also to establish formal groups in 13 areas and these include: Kampala-Kisenyi, Kabalagala, Makindye, Kibuye, Natete, Nankulabye, Migyera, Kasenyi Landing site-Entebbe, Gulu, Mutukula-Masaka, Mbale and Mukono.
We have just started on a long journey towards unity, equality, and well-being. We have big dreams and faith in achieving our goals and objective in spite of the many challenges ahead of us. CONCLUSION We are hereby seeking partnership and advocacy programs with existing social service providers, whether NGO’s, Government organizations, public or private institutions, organizations that are already active in fighting discrimination /and promotion of sex workers rights to create a platform for sex workers in demand for equality, recognition, respect and liberation, and those looking to conduct research about and with sex workers in the name of minimizing harm and violence against sex workers and ending the social exclusion of sex workers. Your contribution and support towards the furtherance of our cause is highly appreciated.