Sex Work in a Transnational Context

Monday, April 12th, 10 – 11:30 am

Sex worker organizers from North America and the Global South will join in conversation across four different continents to discuss our separate and overlapping issues, and how our movement goals are and must be transnational. This panel includes speakers from India, Kenya, the Netherlands, and the U.S.: Bharati Dey (AINSW + DMSC), Grace Kamau (ASWA), Carolyne Njoroge (KESWA), and Alexis Briggs (Red Umbrella Fund). Moderated by TD Tso. 

Bharati Dey is a former sex worker who now heads up the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Durbar), a collective of 75,000 sex workers from across the West Bengal region founded in 1995, managed by sex workers and their children. She also served as president for All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW). Bharati grew up the daughter of an agricultural worker in Kolkata, India. When her parents tried to arrange her to be married, She left home and entered the sex work industry. In her work, she witnessed violence against sex workers and began organizing and advocating for sex workers in 1997. She has been abused and jailed in response to her advocacy. In 2003, she became the project coordinator for an HIV/AIDS-prevention program funded by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Durbar. She was promoted to project director and worked there  for 6 years before she became the president of Durbar. Durbar, which means ‘unstoppable’ in Bengali, aims to strengthen sex workers’ rights through solidarity and reduce the stigma and discrimination they face.

Grace Kamau is the Africa Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) Regional Coordinator. She is an advocate of health and human rights of key populations including sex workers, LGBTI and people who use drugs. She has 15 years experience in advocacy, resource mobilisation and capacity building. Grace also worked as a consultant for the Global Network of Sex Work Projects where she documented the lived experiences of sex workers and examples of good practices that informed the development of advocacy tools to strengthen sex worker led groups’ engagement with HIV policy makers and programmers to amplifying their voices locally, regionally and globally. Grace holds a degree in Sociology and Political Science from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. She is also an AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) fellow. The overall goal of the Program is to expand and strengthen the capacity of civil society advocates and organisations to monitor, support and help shape biomedical HIV prevention research and rapid rollout of new effective interventions in low- and middle-income countries with HIV burdens.

Carolyne Njoroge is the programs person at the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance (KESWA) residing in Nairobi. As a sex worker, Carolyne is passionate about realizing gender equality, community empowerment, capacity building and strengthening and diverse sex workers organizing. An accomplished human rights and HIV prevention advocate for key populations who has facilitated the national government under the ministry of health NASCOP to develop a national guideline on the use of PrEP during my 2015 AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) fellowship. Carolyne has worked as a regional coordinator consultant for the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) to develop a PrEP briefing paper capturing voices from Zimbabwe, Kenya and south Africa. Carolyne has 8 years’ experience working with the national movement of sex workers in Kenya focusing on achieving social justice, inclusive participation, decision making and designing of structural barriers interventions with, by and for sex workers.

Alexis Wilson Briggs joined Red Umbrella Fund in 2019 and is the Programme Associate for Africa, Canada, and USA. Alexis was born in California and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a bachelors in philosophy in 2004. Prior to completing her degree, she worked at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco and was a part of the efforts to unionise the peep show in 1996. In 2007, Alexis earned a Juris Doctor from Temple University School of Law in Philadelphia and returned to California to work as a criminal defense attorney in private practice for 7 years. She provided pro bono mass defense for Occupy Wall Street protesters in California and members of Anonymous in the PayPal 14 case in Federal Court. Compelled by her experience at the Lusty and the over-policing and incarceration of her communities, she has spent over 20 years seeking to abolish prisons and end enforcement of vice and poverty-based crimes through community activism and allying with non-profits within the criminal justice and drug policy sectors. Informed by a multitude of roles as an activist and as an advocate, she supports community-led and harm reductionist theories of change.