Sex workers are demanding for better jobs amidst
the covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
sex workers say due to the restricted public gatherings and closed bars, they
are struggling to survive.
Tiffany Namirembe has been surviving on
sex work for the last five years, after she was thrown out of home when she got pregnant while in
In March 2020, when Uganda was first hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,
Namirembe lived in her rented bed space in Kisenyi slum where she paid 5,000 Shillings
COVID-19 messed up the 21-year-old’s life when all of sudden bars and lodges
were closed leaving her without a source of income. This forced her to dump her
son at one of her former boyfriend’s homes.
Namirembe says that over the last year, she has been providing sex
for accommodation in Makindye. She says that she will now abandon the business because
it only gives her a bed, not a meal or any other needs.
According to Namirembe, the number of men looking for sex workers
has reduced since the lifting of travel restrictions, but instead abuse has
become more rampant citing gang-rape.
///Cue in: “COVID yampisa bubi…
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Before the initial lockdown, she says she had saved for a passport and is now
seeking decent employment abroad.
//Cue in:” Kuba kati ogenda…
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Another sex worker only identified as Shamim says she wants to go
back into being a waitress in a restaurant. She only joined sex work because it
was lucrative then and helped her acquire money to afford her daily addiction,
//Cue:” Mbadde nekuba…
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She says that the interruptions caused by COVID-19 made her break the routine
because they could no longer access customers and failed to sustain herself on
drugs, a reason she opted for rehabilitation upon referral by a friend.
Six months into rehab, 28-year-old Shamim says she needs a
sustainable and decent job to enable her live healthy since she has also enrolled
on HIV treatment.
//Cue in:” ” Omanyi eddagala…
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Twaib Wamala, a Rights Activist who heads the Uganda Harm
Reduction Network, an entity that rehabilitates and refers for treating people
who are addicted to drugs says they heard more stories like Shamim’s.
While they had initially thought numbers visiting the facility
would reduce due to the pandemic restrictions, they saw more victims including
sex workers seeking help on especially abandoning drug use.
They have since referred them to Butabika hospital for enrollment
on treatment with methadone, a drug that treatments patients battling addiction.
Macklean Kyomya, the Executive Director at Alliance of Women
Advocating for Change (AWAC), an organization that advocates for the rights of
key populations say COVID-19 had the biggest toll on sex workers since they
were never included in any of the relief programmes including the initial food
distribution and later cash transfers.
Those who flouted the Covid-19 guidelines and moved out to look
for clients were arrested and had to bribe officers to be released. Kyomya says
they reported being asked for sex in exchange for freedom whereas some were
Kyomya says that COVID-19 should have given the government an indicator
to include sex workers in social protection programmes because many have
testified that they only joined the trade because they had no capital or any