In June 2009 Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMWA) and the Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-Africa) conducted the first-ever Sex Worker African Women’s Leadership Institute in Mombasa (Kenya). The workshop brought together sex workers from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. This training was unusual in content, structure, interaction, learning and outcomes. It became a space for the women to say individually and collectively, “we are powerful”. They were powerful before they came to the meeting, but they left the institute keenly aware of their power, their worth, their achievements and the importance of leveraging their power together.
In a revolution borne of a need to survive with dignity against marginalisation, these women demonstrated that they had thrown off cultural and social restraints that relegate women to the position of minors in order to keep them in check and behaving according to the dictates of society. There is much that the women’s movement can learn from the sex workers movement in empowerment, transformation and resisting marginalisation.
The training resulted in a compilation authored by Zawadi Nyong’o, titled ‘When I Dare To Be Powerful’. The book was published as a way to provide context for the sex worker rights movement by sharing the life stories of five of the training’s participants. The book was launched during the 4th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), on February 2010. Chapters include stories of sex workers, a guide to risk management tips for sex workers to have safer work lives, and a sex worker’s pledge.
Here is an excerpt from Susan of Kenya’s chapter:
“Some of the most generous people I know, and people who have a positive outlook in life are sex workers. For you to be able to trust a total stranger, you have to have a special heart, have a lot of faith, and look at people in a really different way. You need to have a positive attitude – this is what gets us through.”
Urgent Action Fund-Africa Annual Report 2009:
When I dare to be power:
http://www.pambazuka.net/en/category/books/63532 (news article)
1 March 2010
By Zawadi Nyong'o, Pambazuka News
When I Dare to be Powerful: Zawadi Nyong'o Returning Home to Help Build a Movement:
http://clpp.hampshire.edu/when-i-dare-be-powerful-zawadi-nyongo-returning-home-help-build-movement (news article)
10 May 2011
By Corinna Yazbek, Civil Liberties and Public Policy
When I Dare to be Powerful – Sex Workers Oral Herstory: http://www.nswp.org/resource/when-i-dare-be-powerful-sex-worker-oral-herstory
24th September 2010
By the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)
‘When I dare to be powerful’ downloadable PDF version: http://www.nswp.org/sites/nswp.org/files/When%20I%20dare%20to%20Be%20Powerful%20-%20Sex%20Worker%20Oral%20Herstory.pdf