APNSW hosts Global Fund Training for Sex Workers in Kathmandu, Nepal

I learned a lot in this workshop, including that sex workers can, and should, lead our own organisations. The Global Fund is supposed to be here to support us, so let’s see what we can do to make the situation of sex workers in Nepal better.

The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) facilitated a 3-day training in Kathmandu, Nepal from the 21-23 of September. Twenty-three male, female, and transgender sex workers from attended the workshop across the nation. Sex worker participants represented JMMS, Nepal’s National Federation of Female Sex Workers; and Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s national GLBTIQ representative network.

The training aimed to teach participants about the structure and function of the Global Fund (GF) from a community perspective.This involved identifying:

  • eligibility criteria and processes to apply for funding for sex worker-led Community Based Organisations (CBOs) through Primary and Sub Recipients
  • ensuring sex worker representation on the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) and understanding the processes, procedures, and function of the CCM
  • accountability mechanisms community members can use to ensure that their concerns are noted and acted upon by the GF
  • options communities can use to access technical assistance and support from GF
  • and an introduction to the function of the GF Communities and Civil Society Delegation.

Sex workers thought the workshop was positive, enjoyable, and informative. One sex worker said: “I learned a lot in this workshop, including that sex workers can, and should, lead our own organisations. The Global Fund is supposed to be here to support us, so let’s see what we can do to make the situation of sex workers in Nepal better.

Another participant said, “sex workers face many barriers living and working in Nepal- even travelling outside Nepal as adult women we need our husband or fathers permission. We also face challenges in getting citizenship for our children if we are unmarried. Sometimes we feel like we are the #1 most discriminated job in Nepal. We need to have a stronger united voice, and to have our networks better funded so that we can work on all the issues which affect us. We hope in the future we are resourced by the Global Fund in a way which doesn’t cause us more headaches.”

Similarly, another sex worker said, “Nepal has a little bit bad history with Global Fund. Sex workers were told that the Global Fund was stopped in Nepal because of corruption, but as a community we were not clear about what happened or who did what. We hope that in the future, with a better idea of what we can do ourselves to stop people who are taking sex workers money from us, we can stop it from happening again.”

In addition to the Global Fund training, APNSW facilitators also started discussions with participants about legislative frameworks used to regulate the sex industry. Currently in Nepal, sex work is criminalised under national law, and sex workers do not have access to legal redress if their human rights or labour rights are violated. Many sex workers also report experiencing a high level of stigma and discrimination from the broader community. Nepalese sex workers spent some time debating the merits of both a legalised and decriminalised sex industry. Although consensus was not reached on the ideal legislative system to simultaneously suit Nepal’s society and culture, sex workers agreed to continue the discussion amongst their communities at the national level.

Throughout the 3 days of training, friendships were formed between APNSW facilitators and sex worker participants, with Nepali sex workers gifting APNSW representatives beautiful, traditional Newari-style, woollen shawls.

From APNSW’s perspective, facilitators are proud to be part of the process of strengthening the capacity of the next generation of sex worker leaders in Nepal.

An APNSW Secretariat member who attended the workshop said, “as a regional network, it is always a pleasure for APNSW to work directly with our member groups to respond to their capacity strengthening needs. We are committed to building and strengthening the sex worker movement and ensuring that our primary principles, such as the recognition of sex work as work, decriminalisation of sex work, and challenging stigma and discrimination against our communities, are reflected in regional policies and funding agendas. We were particularly impressed by the large number of younger sex workers (19 to 35-year-olds) with an interest in, and commitment to, sex worker organising in Nepal. To share in the process of strengthening their capacity, and to exchange experiences with a majority younger sex worker community, who are vivacious and enthusiastic, was incredibly heartening. These are the next generation of Nepalese sex worker leaders and we look forward to working with them in the future across regional forums and issues.”