FRIDA supported Juliet Katongole, the Executive Director of Crested Crane Lighters, to attend the 60th Commission for the Status of Women in New York City last month. Juliet joined an expert panel to discuss the best policies to strengthen the human rights of sex workers. Crested Crane Lighters is a young feminist group that aims to protect and advance the rights of women sex workers and their children in Uganda. They do this by advocating for the adoption of international human rights policies in national legislation and by working to document and report violence experienced by young sex workers. Crested Crane Lighters is one of our grantee partners from the Sub Saharan Africa region. We caught up with with Juliet about her experience at the international forum. Here are some excerpts:
What were your key learnings or takeaways from the session?
Since it was my first experience being a panelist at an international forum, I gained more confidence by presenting my work and meeting and networking with other people globally, talking about the human rights of sex workers. My takeaway from the session was to look more at the un-answered questions from people who do not support sex workers’ rights and see how we can bring them on board and work amicably with them.
Why is it important for a group like Crested Crane Lighters to be heard at the CSW?
It is important for us to be heard because most people don’t know the human rights violations that happen every single day in the lives of sex workers in Uganda. It is also important because it helps create more visibility for Crested Crane Lighters as a grassroots organization.
What was your biggest challenge?
The weather that wasn’t friendly to me! But apart from that, I attended some more sessions that I thought were friendly and open to the rights of sex workers but on reaching [them], I found that they were not. This is a challenge for the larger sex workers movement.
What was your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment was [presenting] my work and experience at the expert panel and [talking] about the best policies that can support the human rights of sex workers. In addition, attending the UN Women meeting to challenge the Swedish model was another significant accomplishment, where they wanted to push forward a policy that criminalises sex work. As sex workers and advocates for the rights of sex workers, we attended the meeting and opposed it, making everyone understand and realise that we cannot operate when our clients are criminalized. We advocated for decriminalization as the best policy for sex workers.
Massive thank you to Open Society Foundations for supporting us and making this possible!