Uganda Network of Sex Worker Led Organisations (UNESO) early last week organized a joint workshop for all sex workers’ organisation leaders aimed at improving their advocacy skills. Under “Movement Building” a two year project funded by Amplify Change, UNESO is striving to build the leadership capacity of its member organisations as well s empower its members with strategic advocacy skills.
The workshop saw several sex workers share strategies, approach and best practices in terms of advocacy as a cross cutting key thematic area in their operations.
When asked about what the program hopes to achieve, Batte Shamila the National Coordinator of UNESO and Executive Director of OGERA Uganda said they hope to see an increased access to resources and services for sex workers, change in laws and policies that affect sex workers as well as see the decriminalization of sex work in Uganda.
The workshop brought together fifty five members from fifteen sex worker organisations, both male and female, to discuss issues affecting their profession.
Patrick- a social worker from MARPI Mulago, a clinic that offers free and friendly health services to key population groups in Uganda encouraged sex workers to come out and utilize the services at their exposure and urged them to pick a keen interest in issues that affect them as a marginalized cluster of people in the country.
He sensitized them about patient’s rights and emphasized that no health worker has a right to reject client because of who he/she is or what they do for a living.
Sanyu Hajarah Batte, the newly elected alternate representative for key populations on the country coordinating mechanism (CCM) for Global Fund in Uganda led the session of advocacy strategy. She streamlined various advocacy strategies and skills that sex workers can employ to further their agenda in order to influence change and fight repressive laws that affect their profession.
Also in attendance were representatives from Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) who took the sex workers through a session on laws t and policies hat hinder their work and how to safely navigate the harsh political and social environment which they operate in.
What is UNESO?
UNESO is an umbrella network for all sex worker led organisations and it represents the needs of all sex workers operating in Uganda inspite of their sexual orientation, gender identity, origin, race or nationality. The network’s major goal is to see sex work decriminalised in Uganda and to create a safer and friendlier environment for sex workers.
According to Ms Batte, she envisages the network as a visible and fully established coercive force representing the issues of sex worker organisations in Uganda within the next five to ten years.