Sex Worker Pride started in 2019 with the aim to celebrate sex workers’ self-determination and the achievements of the sex worker rights movement. ASWA members celebrated Sex Worker Pride 2021 on 14 September with in-person events, digital events, and sharing achievements across social media and online networks.

African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) held an online session celebrating sex workers’ achievements, focussing on movement building and organising, the recognition of sex work as work, and celebrating sex workers’ innovation and resilience during COVID-19. The Zoom meeting began with presentations from panellists and a plenary session, followed by an open discussion and reflections on how to sustain their hard-won achievements and the next steps to scaling up achievements.

The online session had one theme-Celebrating Sex worker Achievements and resilience in Africa;10 Sessions, 9 Panelists and was moderated by Grace Kamau, Regional Coordinator of ASWA. Participants included Phillipa Tucker (guest speaker), Research and Communications Director of Accountability International; Lungile Khumalo, Executive Director of Voice Of Our Voices (VOOV), Eswatini; and Zziwa Guy Jairus, Programs Officer at Men Of The Night Uganda (MONU).

Opening remarks: Laveria Mwai, Program Coordinator Sex Workers Academy Africa (SWAA) explained the history of Sex Worker Pride Day, and ASWA’s achievement. She explained that the day was launched by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) in 2019 to celebrate the achievements of our movement and allow sex workers the chance to share stories of self-determination and survival. Sex Worker Pride Day becomes the fourth annual key date of the sex workers’ rights movement.

Panel presentation, The Guest Speaker: Phillipa Tucker, Research and Communications Director Accountability International said that the proudest achievement is the visibility of sex workers in Africa and also the process of decriminalisation of sex work in Africa.

Cameroon: Julius Bama, Director of Programs Alcondoms Cameroun which is a community-based organization (CBO) based in the economic capital of Cameroon, Douala and in Buea. He expressed the achievements as follows; Engaged sex workers in IGA (Income Generating Activities) i.e., like the local productions of soap, bags, shoes, face masks, neckless and traditional-cloths. Etc, they ensured some of the Female sex workers (FSW) -IDP (Internally Displaced Population) were back on ART (antiretroviral treatment)​. They succeeded in obtaining birth certificates for FSW during a campaign organised by local authorities so that they could move easily without any harassment by the police.​

Uganda: Men Of the Night (MONU), Programs Officer of Zziwa Guy Jairus, listed the proudest achievements as being the pioneers of male sex work visibility in Uganda. They launched the first-ever Male sex workers documentary in Uganda, developed an HIV Literacy Manual, came up with a Crisis Management Plan for all Male sex worker-led organisations in Uganda, initiated the first COVID 19 vaccination drive as a result of the COVID 19 sensitisation campaign for key populations.

Egypt: Nora Noralla Executive Director represented Cairo 52 Legal Research Institute in Egypt which is led and run by members of the sex workers community, works on sexual and bodily freedoms.She explained that they pride in providing pro-bono legal representation to the sex working community, as well as different trainings to the community on digital and legal security i.e. how to avoid arrest and how to deal with the police if you are stopped and how to keep your phone safe from the hands of the authorities. They also pride in creating an archive including cases relating to the community and use this case law to build litigation strategies in these cases. In addition to this they work closely with the legal community to educate young lawyers how to deal with the sex workers community and their needs. They also work on creating an archival history of the sex working community in Egypt, as the history of this community is often overlooked and not studied due to the nature of the conservative Egyptian society. As well as producing new legal martials that provides an alternative reading of the law to help with the sex working community. Finally, Cairo 52 works on creating a long-term advocacy plan centered around community building, lobbying diplomatic missions, issuing reports, and hopes to submit the first sex workers Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Egypt’s next cycle.

Kenya: KIASWA is proud to be the third female sex-worker led group in Kenya to have a fully functional clinic offering Bio-medical, structural and behavioural services to sex workers after BHESP and Busia survivors. This has been through registration of the clinic with Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union, acquiring a Master Facility Listing (MFL) code

KIASWA also capacity-built the trans population who are now visible and empowered to an extent in which they represent sex workers on the international platforms. Jessica Lauren together with the KIASWA director who represented KIASWA in the just concluded Generation Equality Forum submitted three commitments which were all showcased during the Paris platform. Jessica Lauren also took the Kenyan mantle to represent the Kenyan young key population in the high-level meeting and was nominated as the East African Young key population representative.

Kenya: Coast Sex Workers Alliance (COSWA) female sex workers led organisation at the Coastal region of Kenya. COSWA-Kenya formed a County Diversity Sex Workers Network and capacity build them to act as COSWA-Kenya Constituents groups.

COSWA-Kenya took part in planning and organizing a peaceful demonstration to advocate for the release of ARVs withheld by the Ministry of Health to the public and create awareness on the shortage of ARVs in Kenya.

Kenya: Nkoko Iju Africa (NIA) during the COVID-19 pandemic, NIA helped in negotiation with the guest houses owners to allow sex workers stay in guest houses and also pay ¼ of the rates because most of the sex workers were left homeless and were also migrants.

Through Emma Shipley and Belinda (Denmark), NIA provided alternative economic empowerment within Kilifi and Mombasa counties. In a move that directly targeted sex workers with children, NIA came up with a children centred approach. They identified 50 sex workers who were trained in production and processing milk from soya. This countered malnourishment amongst these children whom their parents could not be able to provide food for their children due to the reduced income from their daily activities. These households were also trained on how to make Briquette which is an environment friendly and affordable source of fuel. The families were trained on how to mix charcoal dust and sand which are readily available in most of the households within the coastal region. In addition, the families were also trained on how to make shower gels. All these activities aimed at reducing or cutting the expenses that sex workers faced since their income had reduced. NIA pivoted economic solution to enhancing agricultural skills to the affected women headed families. They trained 100 households on kitchen farming. After the training, sacks and seedlings were provided to these families for the progression of this activities. The main goal for this initiative, was to ensure that all the engaged families got enough vegetables and those with surplus could sale and use the income on other needs

Lawrence Phiri, Director: Zimbabwe Rainbow Community said that working together as sex worker led organisations would help us build a strong movement and that together in our diversity nothing could stop us.He urged that we take Pride in the work that we do as sex workers.His proudest achievement is the recognition of male sex workers in all programming, decision making  and also the formation of Zimbabwe sex workers coalition (ZISECO).

Eswatini Lungile Khumalo Executive Director: Voice Of Our Voices (VOOV) Eswatini said that FHI 360 transitioned the entire demand creation for access to health services to VOOV in May this year- 2021, which was a great milestone. VOOV also took pride in been able to conduct Economic empowerment of 670 groups which each has 10 to 15 members per group. VOOV has been conducting skills building for sex workers which includes start up small business, cleaning agents e.g., bath form, polish, liquid soap, dish wash, cooking and baking.

Kenya; Muhammad Gaji, ASWA Board Member and the Director, Muamko Mpya CBO Kenya said that it is time to let the ball rolling, gain momentum and achieve maximum achievement for sex workers in Africa.Her proudest achievement is the sensitisation of Islamic Religious leaders

On sex workers rights and health and also endorsing Sex workers led CSO to be part of ASWA membership.

Benin: Nehemiah Kakpo Program Officer: Association Solidarite Benin said his achievement was the increment of Solidarity Association from two associations to 18 associations in the 12 departments of Benin.Additionally there was a good collaboration between the police and the heads of sex worker associations which led to the  reduction of police harassment.

Hashtags: #SexWorkerPrideDay

More links on the event.