By Ambrose Barigye
Leaders from sex-work led organizations came together on 29th of April in Kampala to pave way for a stronger and sustainable network for all Ugandan based sex workers’ organizations.
The sex work fraternity is one of the fast growing civil rights movement in Uganda. Compared to the past regimes, Uganda currently has a big number of out and dedicated sex work activists pushing for the decriminalization of sex work. In Uganda and other parts of the world, sex work is considered a taboo and an unacceptable cultural practice highly condemned by most religious leaders and other cultural leaders though this has not deterred these dedicated male and female sex work advocates to keep up the struggle geared at creating a conducive environment for all sex workers in the country.
Like any other growing movement, these male and female sex workers have encountered a series of challenges and as a means of streamlining their work and addressing these barriers, the leaders were forced to call a meeting to iron out these shortcomings. Amongst these was the mushrooming network without a clear mandate in regard to creating a unified force to tackle issues affecting sex workers countrywide, they noted that many coalitions have come up but breakdown after a short period of action. Therefore it is upon this background that Sanyu Hajarah Batte affirmed that this time they are ready to disregard all the past differences and create a solid network to make sure the sex workers voices are heard out there.
“we have come together as sex workers to talk about problems in the sex work movement, we are forming one sex work network which is UNESO to resolve all the issues we had and create a stronger movement for all sex workers in Uganda, either male or female, transgender sex workers, so we have come with a way forward to form one network so that we can come together as one body to have as strong movement of all sex work organizations in Uganda. Through this productive discussion, we hope that we shall be able to empower our members.”-Bad Black a transgender and sex work activist told Kuchu Times.
Over the years, the number of sex workers coming out to join in the wave of advocating for their rights has greatly ascended. They have continuously engaged with various stake holders such as policy makers especially the Uganda police, ministry of health officials, The Uganda AIDS commission and many other human rights organisations. These engagements have yielded some positive achievements as now many sex workers know much concerning their rights; they now can access health services from friendly health centres due to the extended referral base.
These leaders resolved to go with Uganda Network for Sex Workers Organizations (UNESO) as the only coalition to unite all the sex workers in Uganda disregarding the other alliances whose objectives are not clear.
“we came to discuss issues affecting our movement as sex workers in Uganda because we have been having many networks around and we agreed that should have a common goal because we are all fighting for one common agenda which is decriminalization of sex work in Uganda. We came together to strengthen our movement in Uganda and to work as a single cohesive body because we are all affected by the identical issues. We have agreed to go with UNESO because of its clear mandate to merge all of us in a single body.”-Sanyu Hajarah a sex work activist said.
Organizations undertaking this process include;
- Lady Mermaids Bureau.
- Crested Crane Lighters.
- Youth on Rock Foundation (YRF).
- Organisation for Gender Empowerment and Rights Advocacy (OGERA).
- Action for Transgender Rights Initiative.
- Men of the Night.
- Women’s Organisation Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA).
- Foundation for Transgender Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
- Foundation for Gender and Sexual Rights in Uganda.
“many at times, we have been asked about different networks in Uganda which prompted us to merge and form one network, organization from HURA and those from UNESO came together to form a single network to resolve the issue of many networks, we are all happy that different leaders have resolved to consider UNESO as the recognized network for all sex work led organisations in Uganda. This is good because we are all working under a common goal”- Shammie the interim coordinator of UNESO affirmed to Kuchu Times.