Tag Archive: uganda

  1. SWOP-NYC Announces Partnership with Uganda-based WONETHA

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    SWOP-NYC is pleased to announce a partnership in solidarity with Uganda-based Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA).

    You can learn more about WONETHA here and here.

    Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA) is a Ugandan sex worker led organization established in August 2008 by 3 passionate and determined sexworkers who have faced harassment, insults, stigma, discrimination and arrest without trial by misinformed societies and who have been stirred into responsive action concerning the plight of other sexworkers in the same working conditions.

    Macklean Kyomya, Daisy Nakato, and Zamu Namagembe, the three young women who founded WONETHA in August 2008 have all had experiences working in the commercial sex industry. Macklean, WONETHA’s Director, was struggling to pay her school fees when she followed the advice of her peers and found regular ‘sugar daddies’as a source of income. After witnessing the violent rape of her friend, she began to search for an organization that would guide and protect her. WONETHA’s programme coordinator Daisy contracted HIV from one of her first clients when she started working in a bar. During her years as a sex worker, there were many threatening exchanges between Daisy and her clients. After a particularly violent client, Daisy also went in search of a group that could help her manage her HIV and assist her in diversifying her income.

    At different times, each of these women joined an organization that claimed to protect and empower commercial sexworkers, and assist them to find better sources of income. Social stigma issues were not addressed, each of the women was given different opportunities to continue their education, attend conferences, build advocacy and writing skills, reach out to other commercial sexworkers, and stand in solidarity with women late at night in Kampala’s brothels and streets.

    However, this organization was headed by a man, and over time these women found that they were continuing to be exploited and manipulated by the male-headed administration. The staff would work, but were never paid on time. International donations were given to the organization to pay for the different needs of the target group, but none of the members ever received what they were promised. International funding for projects and programs was sent, but often disappeared. Many innovative ideas and opportunities were presented to the Chairperson but they were repeatedly shut down. Attempts to reform the leadership and management were made, but were never successful.

    Through this time, the three women were connected by their commitment to improving the self-esteem of women sex workers and breaking the stigma around sexworkers.

    Through their experiences, and with the support of many colleagues in the civil society community, these women decided to form an organization that would genuinely represent their dreams and aspirations of providing “a home and hope for marginalized women”.


    “To unite sex workers; to improve our living and working conditions and to fight for equal access to rights so that sex workers’ human rights are defended and protected.”


    “To work with adult sex workers, organize sex workers claim their rights, call fordecriminalization of adult sex work; promote access to health, legal, and social services; and promote safer sex practices and sex workers’ health and well being.”

    Problem Statement: Why focus on rights of sexworkers?

    Rights Not Rescue: Sex workers are facing a health and human rights crisis in Uganda, yet very little is being done to protect their rights. Research done across Africa shows that the criminalization of sex work leaves sex workers particularly vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse from law enforcement officials and the general public. Sex workers experience routine violence from police, including rape, physical assault, and having their genitals sprayed with pepper-spray.

    In recent engagement of government by sex workers who are members of WONETHA to have sex work decriminalized, sex workers sought to claim their fundamental right to social and economic freedom, equality, dignity, and privacy.

    Why decriminalization?

    Firstly, decriminalization enables the sex industry to be regulated thereby reducing violence against sex workers and cases of human trafficking. It is the oppressors and those committing violence against women who want sex work to remain illegal. Secondly, where sex work is illegal HIV prevalence increases due to difficulties in accessing health care prevention initiatives.

    In the New vision of 19th 05 2009 Dr Kihumuro Apuli, Director of Uganda AIDS Commission stated that HIV prevalence among sex workers is 50% and 10% are male clients between the age of (15-49). As a sex worker Organization we are deeply concerned that this situation is alarming despite Uganda’s role model image in previous years in the fight of HIV & AIDS.

    WONETHA therefore upholds that for sex workers to fully enjoy all their labour-related rights and fundamental freedoms, sex work in Uganda must be decriminalized. Decriminalization will involve the removal of outdated laws which specifically criminalize sex work, enable sexworkers to operate under the same conditions as other workers, and access the same human rights. The sex work industry will be subject to the same laws which apply to all other sectors in Uganda, including existing labour legislation. Other benefits will include;

    • Allowing sex workers to practice their profession openly without fear.
    • Easier access to health care facilities without stigma
    • Reducing the health and life dangers involved in the profession of sex work
    • Allowing sex workers the protection and benefits of the law.
    • More comprehensive health care services for sex workers, including those that address rape, sexual violence, mental health, substance abuse, care of sexworkers who are HIV positive, adolescent health, nutrition and antenatal care/maternal mortality.
    • Freedom to contribute to national tax payment system therefore raising the sex workers self esteem.

    WONETHA emphasizes that the current sex worker situation in Uganda calls for immediate action and if the government does not come out to act then Uganda will lose the battle on HIV/AIDS. As WONETHA we always say that if sexworkers are not safe then no woman is safe.

    For more information contact:

    Kyomya Macklean
    P.O.Box 31762, Namirembe Rd, K’la
    Tel: +256-414-667-730 / +256 -774-603-754.
    Alt Email: wonetha@gmail.com/ kmacklean@yahoo.com
    URL. www.wonetha.4t.com

  2. Midpoint Assignment

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    Midpoint assignment: Present your idea(s) for a final project in 5 minutes. You should have a draft problem statement, goal statement and should describe the type of project you want to pursue. As your problem statement should be a social or political problem, you will take this issue on as your case study for the rest of the semester, tracking developments, news and related projects. You will hereafter be required to update the class twice before the end of the semester on your issue and your project.

    Problem Statement Sex workers face a number of barriers when accessing services such as mental health care, social services, STI and HIV screenings. The barriers to access of services are exacerbated by pervasive cultural stigma, legal obstacles, poverty, education, and other factors. In Recent years, mobile technology adoption rates have soared in much of the global south. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS prevalence is highest in these countries. As such, it seems quite a natural progression for those combating the stigma and the virus (through prevention and care) to utilize mobile technology to increase information access and education.

    The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has created an extremely difficult climate for NGOs and NPOs who work with sex worker populations to maintain adequate access to funding in their programs due to the require of the Anti-Prostitution Pledge, essentially silencing them by putting restraints on organizations by requiring them to sign an anti-prostitution pledge regardless of whether prostitution is legal, decriminalized, or illegal by their own local laws. These grassroots agencies and organizations are most equipped to identify victims of trafficking as well as to penetrate this difficult to reach population and provide services. PEPFAR’s policy further discriminates against sex workers. For example, Andrew Hunter of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers noted that doctors are not allowed to answer questions regarding what sex health concerns are medically valid around MSM (men having sex with men) sex work. Denial of services and education are not effective HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment policy, plain and simple.

    Goal Statement
    I intend to continue learning about efforts to use SMS and mobile technology as a means for disseminating information around HIV/AIDS in the global south. I will continue to look at existing programs and policies that are working to make change, it seems, outside of PEPFAR funding. I would like to continue this work, examing what has been effective and through my research and prototyping, make recommendations and continue developing technology on this subject to increase HIV/AIDS prevention and services access to marginalized populations, including by not limited to sex workers, primarily in the global south. I would like to test a pilot program in New York City in conjunction with the Bureau of AIDS and the PROS Network (a coalition of service providers and others providing harm reduction services here in New York City.)

    Related Projects

    • Text to Change: Text to Change (TTC), a non-profit organization in Africa, has been using mobile technology for health education since 2008. TTC has been running a fun, innovative and practical HIV/AIDS education program in three countries — Uganda, Kenya and Namibia. This program not only educates participants about AIDS but also encourages infected patients to seek medical help and adhere to medication.
    • How SMS Could Save Your Life (Wired Magazine): GUGULETHU, South Africa — How do you make the expertise of two doctors and two nurses spread far and wide enough to take care of more than 500 HIV/AIDS patients? In this gritty township, the answer is text messaging.
    • Tactical Technology Collective (TTC) – I put out a call for information to harm reduction and sex worker contacts. I received a report back from the Open Society Institute’s Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP) which was commissioned in preparation for a 2007 meeting of sex worker activists. It was written by Melissa Gira and Tactical Technology Collective (TTC) and looks at how sex workers groups are using technology in their work.
      Synopsis: I intend to study how SMS and mobile technology is working in the field of HIV prevention in sex worker populations.
    • The Aphrodite Project – Sexy GPS Shoes – a project that involved ITP students a few years ago.
    • Successful Launch TTC/AIC HIV SMS Quiz Program In Mbarara, Uganda
    • UGANDA: Using mobile phones to fight HIV
      Text to Change (TTC) , an NGO that uses a bulk short message service (SMS) platform for HIV/AIDS education, recently partnered with the AIDS Information Centre in Uganda (AIC) and Celtel, a local mobile phone network, to pilot a project in western Uganda aimed at communicating knowledge about the disease and encouraging subscribers to volunteer for HIV testing.
    • WHO’s HIV/AIDS sex work toolkit
      In many parts of the world, sex workers have been among the groups most vulnerable to and most affected by HIV since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic.
    • Sex Workers and HIV Prevention – Prevention campaigns aimed at sex workers not only reduce the number of HIV infections that result from paid sex; they can also play a vital role in restricting the overall spread of HIV in a country. Proof of this can be seen in countries such as Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic and Thailand, where general reductions in the national HIV prevalence have been largely attributed to HIV prevention initiatives aimed at sex workers and their clients.

    • Ecuador Sex Workers Target HIV-AIDS Prevention
      – Sex workers in Ecuador are building a national labor network and trying to curb HIV-AIDS, while dealing with the growing presence of minors and undocumented workers in brothels. The first of six stories on Ecuador’s sex industry.