This year before the 13th AWID International Forum, AWID hosted the Black Feminism Forum (BFF) from the 5-6 of September. During the BFF, there was a sex worker-led session called “Sex Work and Feminism: what does it mean to be an African sex worker feminist?” organised by Ntokozo Yingwana and Onkokame Mosweu from the African Sex Workers’ Alliance, Amaka Enemo from the Nigeria Sex Workers’ Association, and Sanyu Batte from Lady Mermaid’s Bureau.
The session was based on the research of Ntokozo Yingwana. She explored the intersection of three identities: being African, being a sex worker, and being a feminist. “My hope is to inspire a strand of African feminism that speaks honestly to the nuances and complexities of selling sex in Africa,” said Yingwana.
The project was in collaboration with the African Sex Workers’ Alliance which has 75 member groups in 23 countries. The project called “AWAKE!” included 16 female, male, and transgender sex workers from 7 different countries. NIKAT, KESWA, BHESP, Tiyane Vavasate, Precious Jewels, Sisonke, Warembo Forum, WONETHA, and Lady Mermaid's Bureau had representatives during the workshops with ASWA. The main question the research asked was “what does it mean to be an African sex worker feminist?” Participants explored this question through a variety of activities, including body mapping. Body mapping is when someone is asked to draw themselves and explore how feminism and sex worker manifest through the body.
The session at the Black Feminism Forum was meant to open a dialogue between African sex worker feminists and other feminists present. “Feminism does not talk about sex workers,” said Amaka Enemo from the Nigeria Sex Workers’ Association. “Sex workers are young, middle age, and old. Feminism needs sex workers. Being a feminist can help empower sex workers. For example, it can empower us to tell clients that if they don’t want to use a condom, they should leave,” continued Enemo.
Amaka Enemo was one of the participants at during the AWAKE! project. “Many participants in the workshop did not identify as feminists before,” said Yingwana. “Many are feminists and fighting for women’s rights and sex workers’ rights, but do not call it feminism,” she said. “ I was a feminist before, but I didn’t know what to call it,” said Enemo. Amaka Enemo told NSWP about how they have been teaching other sex workers as the Nigeria Sex Work Association about feminism.
“I don’t think feminists believe that sex workers can also be feminists,” continued Enemo. “That is why workshops like the one at AWID are so important,” she concluded.