NIKAT, a sex worker-led organisation and NSWP member has started a community-led radio project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The founding members of NIKAT wanted to find new ways to do outreach to the community in Addis Ababa and they decided to start a sex worker-led radio programme on FM Shegar 102.1. The programme is called Betegna Radio Programme.
The programme is transmitted once a week on Wednesday evening. Currently the station is planning to transmit the programme on Sunday as well. The programme is hosted by Erkab Media & Communications in collaboration with NIKAT.
The goal is to reach out to as many sex workers as possible, and help educate the general public and concerned stakeholders including law enforcing bodies, police officers, bar and hotel owners, third parties, and families of sex workers about different issues related to sex work.
“We discuss issues related to health, have peer-to-peer conversations on the air, a radio diary of a sex worker, and invite guest speakers to come on the show to answer different questions sex workers have about their health and rights,” said Hanna Hagos, Executive Director of NIKAT, “it has been great for outreach to sex workers and to change the public’s opinion of sex workers”.
“We have received a lot of positive feedback and support from the community for the radio programme, Including new partnership for the Association, job offers for vocational training graduates, new educational opportunities for members, free health service provision, financial support for members as well as the Association. We have also increased our membership because of the programme,” Hanna Hagos said.
Some sex workers have told their stories on the radio through the radio diary programme. They have spoken about their lives, experiences, and struggles they face as sex workers in Addis Ababa. This helps NIKAT do outreach and also provides a venue for sex workers to talk about their experiences. It also helps society better understand sex workers.
“The church of course says this work is a sin and that the women have no choice because of poverty. But the fact is many people use sex workers and these women have no money,” said Azalech Haile Michel, from NIKAT to Al Jazeera.
NIKAT provides job training to sex workers to economically empower them and give them more job opportunities. NIKAT also has a deal with local banks to help sex workers deposit savings, even for sex workers without any ID. In Ethiopia, to do anything (open a bank account, be part of the government development system, etc.) people need to have an ID card and most sex workers do not since they migrate from the countryside. Therefore NIKAT in collaboration with different stakeholders including the National Bank as well as Women’s League is trying to solve that problem to help sex workers.
Hanna Hagos told NSWP that they are now getting a lot of referrals and support from other organisations in the community who believe in the radio project.
NIKAT believes this project is very important for the community of sex workers in Addis Ababa and would like to continue with the radio station as long as funding permits. The Stepping Up, Stepping Out (SUSO) programme, Link Up as well as the Canadian Embassy in Ethiopia has been funding the project for the past two years.