The Graduation of the 2nd Edition of Africa Leadership Sex Workers Academy (ALESWA)

The African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) is excited to present to you the graduates of the second in-person edition of the first ever African Leadership Sex Workers Academy (ALESWA) which took place in the Kenyan capital from 31st Jan to 4th Feb 2023.

ALESWA is a new knowledge and capacity model which builds on the existing Sex Worker Academy Africa (SWAA),that has been running since 2014. More than 500 sex workers leaders in all their diversity across Africa graduated at SWAA. They were trained on advocacy and the implemention of rights-based HIV programmes as set out in the Sex Worker Implementation Tool (SWIT) among others. Due to the training, sex workers leaders have emerged hence the emergence of 27 sex workers led national networks across Africa.

The goal of ALESWA is to strengthen the capacity of emerging and existing sex workers leaders to create a robust sex workers movement in Africa. ALESWA is an extensive knowledge and skills building training model to build the resilience of individuals and organizations in the next three years.

The objective of the ALESWA training is to enable the participants to understand the following:

  • The Human Rights Framework
  • Social protection issues for sex workers
  • The necessity of social protection and SRHR on sex work and sex workers
  • The survey methodology
  • And finally, to understand and conduct the survey on social protection and SRHR issues

ALESWA has a 6 modules curriculum which includes social protection. The modules are as follows.

The content of the Curriculum

  1. Global Human Rights Framework
  2. Social protection
  3. Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)
  4. Ethics of community consultations/Principles of data collections/Research data management
  5. Advocacy Options
  6. Organizational Capacity scan

DRC Team

The second graduation ceremony of the Africa Leadership Sex Workers Academy (ALESWA) wrapped up after 5 days of intense training. This was the second graduation after the first graduation was held in November 2022. The first academy brought together sex workers’ national teams from across 3 Southern African countries to develop organising skills, learn best practices, stimulate national and grassroots sex work organising, and also strengthen the regional sex work network. It involved eighteen sex workers activists from South Africa, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The focus of the academy was the Africa human rights frameworks underpinning social protection for marginalised groups such as sex workers. Social protection’ refers to measures aimed at preventing and addressing situations which negatively affect people’s wellbeing, as well as measures which reduce vulnerability and facilitate social and economic stability.

Participants came from 3 Fracophone African countries namely; Benin, Senegal and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The in-person academy had participants who came from francophone Africa: Senegal, Benin and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The trainers of the academy are known as the faculty. Meet the faculty team here:

The 18 participants come from the following organisations:

  1. Benin-Reseau Solidarite
  2. Senegal – And Soppeku, Kaay Book,Siggil Jiggen,Moytu,And Takawu Djigemme,Karague Protection
  3. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) HODSUS, UMANDE, ACODHU-TS,La Colombe Pride,

Participants Expectations

  1. To share their experiences and realities as sex workers in their various countries
  2. To learn and re-learn.
  3. To understand social protection and be impacted with know-how, to strengthen our community based organization in social protection.
  4. To understand the curriculum so as to train others with it
  5. To gain more knowledge on advocacy
  6. To learn how others have carried out sex work programs and the recognition of their rights
  7. To learn about the protection of sex workers rights and as well the mechanisms that ASWA has put in place to protect and defend sex workers rights
  8. To better understand sex workers in relation to ASWA
  9. To learn how to mitigate violence against sex workers around the globe and Africa.
  10. To get clients
  11. To visit sex workers organization in Kenya
  12. Have a better view on the leadership subject
  13. To learn French and learn more about other countries
  14. To meet LGBTQI+ sex workers
  15. To understanding of human rights and advocacy

ASWA Regional Coordinator,Grace Kamau said “At ALESWA, sex workers acquired advanced advocacy skills to engage with regional platforms such as the African Union, United Nations, CEDAW among others. Language is not a barrier in our learning and movement building.’’

Grace Nyarath ALESWA Coordinator told the graduates that though the training had come to an end, it was their time to implement what they learnt, take the power, work towards sex workers’ social protection, fight equality, oppression and all other forms of violence and discrimination.

Grace Nyarath ALESWA Coordinator

Quotes from the Faculty members

Sylvia Okoth pointed  out that access to #SRHR is central to sex workers’ wellbeing and livelihoods, and to upholding fundamental human rights.

Astreous Olevin illustrated that social inclusion of sex workers of all gender identities, sexual minorities and diversities is needed as it has a great impact in championing for sex work decriminalization and human rights for all.

Felix Otieno urged that sex workers should use human rights mechanisms: international treaties and conventions like CEDAW, African Human Rights Treaties like African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Maputo Protocol, Abuja Declarations on Health to advocate for sex workers’ health and rights.

Mary Mwangi showcased how to conduct a research interview. ‘In case a person is reliving a traumatic experience or is otherwise noticeably unsettled by re-telling an event STOP THE INTERVIEW. You may want to just put your pen and paper away and actively listen to the person and offer support. Advocacy is where advocates organise themselves to take steps to tackle an issue and bring change. It is “speaking truth to power”. 

Samuel Githaiga facilitated that advocacy works by;

1.Building evidence on what needs to change and how that change can happen.

2.Raising attention about important issues and give voice to those affected

3.Influencing those in power to provide leadership, take action and invest resources

4.Creating a positive change towards greater social justice and equality

Melvin Oginge explained community full engagement of sex workers in research increases their self-worth, agency by becoming valued partners in the research and builds a sense of empowerment so that sex workers can advocate for increased control over their own lives and bodies.She added that research methodology shows what data will be collected and where from, as well as how it will be collected and analyzed to ensure reliable, and valid results.

Nicole Ondisa described that human rights are standards that recognize and protect the dignity of all human beings. All sex workers should be accorded their human rights and dignity.

Second ALESWA graduates

Quotes from the graduates

Democratic Republic of Congo DRC

“I learnt that very sex worker has the right to access social protection services. Include us”. TINO KAGAMBA FLORENTIN.

“Make room for sex work. We deserve this right”. MONIQUE WAKULUNGWA. ACODHU-TS.

“Sex work is work like any other, no discrimination or stigma”. MASENGO UMUTESI MERVEILLE from ACODHU-TS.

 “As sex workers we must have the right to health services without discrimination” LINDA BYAMUNGU FORTUNA from UMANDE in DRC

“Sex Work is not a crime and sex workers deserve respect and social protection like all human being” ILUNGA MBAYA Evans from LA COLOMBE PRIDE in DRC.

 “Because every person counts, the rights of sex workers also count, and every sex worker has the right to social protection as well. AIMÉ FURAHA NSHOMBO. UMANDE in DRC 

“The rights of sex workers should be respected like the rights of all other people”. Fatou Marone Ba Senegal ·

“Sex workers must not suffer police violence, access to permanent social protection is very important”. Tacko Diop Secretary General of the Association Karangué Protection Plus.

“Social protection allows us to perform our work better”.Khoudia keita.

“No to stigma and violence against sex workers”.Marième Gaye

“Increased social protection and the promotion of the rights of sex workers is our goal”.Adji Yacine Ndiaye

“Sex work is our livelihood, support us in all ways possible”.Fatou Faye


“I am a Sex Worker in Benin. I am the Secretary of the Solidarité association. I assume myself and I say no to violence against sex workers. I have the right to social protection.Justine Houéfa HOUESSOU.

”Together let’s use international treaties such as the Maputo Protocol, the Abuja Convention to advocate for sex workers rights” Mabel Afi AGBOSU

“I am the president of the sex workers network in Benin. Respect sex work, do not propagate stigma and discrimination against sex workers.Since every person counts, the rights of sex workers also count, and every sex worker has the right to social protection.We must not suffer violence (Sexual, physical, Psychological nor be stigmatized nor discriminated against.” Boco Vulkajncia Melone.

“Human rights are the foundation of human dignity and the cornerstone of peaceful, inclusive, just, equal and prosperous societies”. Euphrem GANMOU

“End discrimination and stigma against sex workers!!! It’s possible if together we are strong”.

“I am proud of my work as a sex worker, being a sex worker is not a crime, I have the same right as other workers: stop stigmatization and discrimination. The Maputo protocol, Abuja Declaration on Health protect me”.Laurette Estelle Sena VIANON.

The graduation was graced by guests from the following organisations;

  2. Frontline Defenders
  3. CREA
  4. Kenya Sex Workers Alliance (KESWA)
  5. Health options for young men on AIDS and STIs (HOYMAS)
  6. Kenya Key Population (KP) Consortium
  7. Partners for Health and Development in Africa (PHDA)
  8. Empowering Marginalised Communities (EMAC)
  9. Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Program (BHESP)
  11. Sex Workers Outreach Program (SWOP)

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