My name is Allen and I live in Uganda. I do sex work in Wandegeya, a neighbourhood in Kampala. In my country, sex workers have to face stigma and are often arrested by the police and imprisoned. I used to fear police officers so much. However, one day I met people of the Women’s Organisation Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA) Uganda. They gave me the chance to become a peer educator in the areas around my neighbourhood. My activities included counselling and supporting sex workers who went for treatment.
I was a peer educator for almost three years. But when WONETHA advertised for a paralegal officer, I applied and got the job. And I’m still doing sex work. I got the opportunity to attend a paralegal training programme. During the training I learned that no one is above the law and all human beings have rights. Rights are universal, applicable and given by God. This knowledge has helped me to challenge the stigma experienced by sex workers.
I learned that no one is above the law and all human beings have rights. Rights are universal, applicable and given by God
Now I can talk to other sex workers about individual human rights and security management. I no longer fear police officers – I can face any of them. Since the training, I’ve been involved in three cases in different neighbourhoods, two in Ggaba and one in Luzira. In these cases, I supported sex workers who had been arrested. I’ve contacted the police officers and managed to find a solution for a number of them. In one case, all four arrested sex workers were released. But in another case only four out of seventeen were released, because the others could not secure sureties. However, WONETHA staff and lawyers of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) together are pleading for community service instead of imprisonment for them.
Unlike before, I feel more confident now to represent sex workers when they have to deal with the police. I’m so thankful that I can work as a paralegal officer at WONETHA and that I could attend the training programme. All this has helped me to grow in a short period of only three months. I’m empowered!