The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) in collaboration with Friends Frangipani, the National Papua New Guinean sex worker organization, held a three-day training in Port Moresby from 17-19 October 2016.
Thirty-two (32) sex worker community members took part in learning more about the Global Fund (GF), its structures and mechanisms, and how to engage effectively at the country level. The large number of participants reflected the level of interest among the community and the desire to make GF programs more accountable to communities. One participant said:
“I’ve heard of the Global Fund for a long time, [but] I did not even know where the Global Fund Office is or how it works. I had no idea that sex workers’ human rights could be part of Global Fund programs, I thought it was just about handing out condoms”
Participants represented a diverse selection of groups who focus on sex worker issues. Members of three additional community groups took part as well as members of Friends Frangipani:
- Kapul Champions is a national organisation for MSM and transgender people, including transgender and male sex workers
- Igat Hope is the PNG national network for people living with HIV and includes many sex workers in their membership
- ‘Hetura’ is a community group of transgender members from Friends Frangipani and Kapul Champions working with sex workers.
Some individual community leaders who are committed to grassroots sex worker community mobilization also took part, as well as three members of the GF Country Coordinating Committee – Mr. Timothy Martin, Ms. Maura Elaripe and Mr. Nick Evera. A representative from UNAIDS, Elizabeth Gande, joined the training, along with a participant from Anglicare International who provide services and technical skills training to sex workers.
The training included modules covering the GF New Funding Model and the funding application process, as well as the structure of the organization including the Board, Delegations and Committees. A key component of the training was how to participate in the GF Country Coordination Mechanism (CCM), along with the importance of engaging in the Country Dialogue and Concept Note development processes.
Even this basic information was eye-opening for some participants. One sex worker said:
“I didn’t know that sex workers at the community level are entitled to participate in these spaces.”
As always the training was participatory and a two-way process with members of the sex work community sharing their experiences of GF programs so far, and questioning the representatives of CCM and UNAIDS about how to ensure meaningful sex worker participation in programs.
Participants identified many issues that prevent sex workers from engaging with Global Fund and other programs. Sex workers in PNG are subject to extremely high levels of stigma and discrimination from religious leaders, service providers, and the broader community. Both state actors (including police and military) and the broader community perpetrate violence against sex workers with impunity as a consequence of the criminalization of sex work. As a result, many sex workers are ‘hidden’ and do not feel safe in getting involved with any community organizing efforts.
The training also covered community empowerment aspects of the Global Fund: especially the Community System Strengthening (CSS) and the integration of human rights and gender equality in relation to rights-based sex work programs. Facilitators introduced the SWIT in the context of community empowerment.
Training also included the role of the Office of the Inspector General, and the mechanisms sex workers can use to report suspected abuses of power and human rights violations within Global Fund programs, or corruption. One participant said:
“I was especially interested in the “speak out” campaign. Now I can share my knowledge with others and we can make sure that no one has power over our community or tricks us or speaks for us.”
On the final day of the training participants collaboratively developed a PNG country action plan for engaging with the Global Fund over for the next two years.
Most of the sex workers from the community were very impressed with the training they received, and felt that training such as this should be included in plans when requesting funds so that “we can be trained on how we will sustain ourselves, rather than seeing ourselves as no-body, especially in PNG and other developing countries.”