Some provocative remarks
Kaythi Win, chairperson of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, underlines during the morning plenary that ‘Sex work is work’ and ‘Violence is not part of the job’. She even managed to activate the audience to stand up and repeat one of her slogans. In her struggle for the recognition of sex work as work and accompanying labour rights, she experiences many negative reactions from feminist camps that define sex work as trafficking and try to convince her of their views. Kaythi Win states ‘Nothing for us, without us’, which reminds me of what Francisca Rodriquez of the Indigenous and rural women’s movement in Chile said about their movement: ‘We are not accompanying the campaign as rural women, we want to be part of it’.
In the same plenary, the Nigerian Ekaete Judith Umoh advocates that ‘Women with disabilities should be included in the work that women’s organisations do’. She underlines the importance of the intersectional approach within women’s organisations and a focus on diversity. Another participant defined disability as social construction and argued that ‘what makes the lives of disabled women miserable is society’.
In a session on digital media advocacy, the basics of digital storytelling were shared. The project called ‘Violence is not our culture’ showed two of the impressive (and horrible) short films. One was made by a young black lesbian woman from South Africa, who lives in a very violent environment. In her film she reveals her experiences and her ongoing fears of possible abuse and violence:
‘I have three locks on my door and I need one more to lock my heart’.
Manal Hassan co-founded the Arab Techies Collective and tells about its impact within Egyptian society. When Samira Ibrahim, a veiled Egyptian woman, was arrested during the uprisings last year, she had to undertake a virginity test in the army prison. According to the military ‘this was just a procedure so the women could not state they had been raped during their imprisonment’. Samira decided to speak about the sexual abuse that happened to her, brought her story to court and got huge support from her society. As Manal Hassan argues, Samira is considered as ‘a normal Egyptian woman’ who does not fit the images created by the Egyptian military that ‘all women on Tahrir square are prostitutes’ or ‘having a foreign agenda’. Her testimony fuelled initiatives to record testimonials of Egyptian citizens and their experiences with violence carried out by the military regime. By now, 12.000 people told their stories, which are shown on mobile screens throughout Egypt and raise awareness on the true face of the military.
Topic of today’s in-depth session was ‘Women’s labour rights, gender equality and economic justice’. Some remarks of the panelist of the International Trade Union Federation:
‘Female Indian construction workers have no access to toilet facilities, which is discrimination in their working environment.’
‘Every year 100 trade union workers are killed in their struggle for worker rights’.
‘Perfect laws, that are not implemented’.
Find more information on the 12 x 12 campaign that was often referred to concerning the ratification of ILO, the Egyptian online testimonies and the storytelling methodology.
The safety of the women is paramount, if they are safe, then the slogan ‘sex work is work’ is completely true.