Macklean Kyomya started working in the Ugandan sex industry at 19. 8 years later she and two other former sex workers – Daisy Nakato and Zam Namagembe – are running the Women’s Organization Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA) after discovering the organizations that try to help sex workers rarely cater to the actual needs of people in the industry.
“No one was asking the sex workers what they wanted – they were simply giving them a little start-up capital to change careers,” Kyomya said. “Many of them just end up back in sex work, either because they didn’t want to leave in the first place, or whatever income generating project they started didn’t make anywhere near what they earned in sex work.”
WONETHA’s goals include the decriminalization of sex work in Uganda, fostering a clear understanding of the distinction between forced and voluntary sex work, and empowering sex workers to prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The organization – with nearly 1,000 members – represents male and female as well as gay and straight sex workers.