White Rose Alliance (WRA) is an alliance/organisation for and by the sex workers and vulnerable women in Liberia.
Tell us about your organisation:
WRA is registered is as an NGO and has been operating since September 5, 2017.
• A locally-rooted organisation with coverage in 9 counties out of 15 in Liberia;
• Committed to serving and projecting the voices of sex workers and vulnerable women through advocacy.
We are a network of vulnerable, marginalised, underserved and disadvantaged young sex workers affected by violence, abuse and exploitation. This is a platform initiated to promote actions that curtail abuse including Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), particularly sexual molestation and rape from men, especially male law enforcement personnel.
We have come to realise that in order to effectively respond to the plights of sex workers, we ourselves can no longer be spectators, barely recipients of support, but rather become drivers of our causes and leaders of response mechanisms. We appreciate and remain open for partnership and support from those whose mandate truly promotes social protection and advances the rights of sex workers. Additionally, we believe that sex workers themselves should be at the heart of any conversation on sex work and that the legal frameworks including policies, action plans and laws should protect sex workers, give them rights and protect their interests as well.
What is the history of the organisation? How and why was it formed?
White Rose Alliance (WRA) was established to promote the rights, health and safety of sex workers in Liberia. WRA is registered is as an NGO and has been operating since September 5, 2017. This move was influenced due to the limited care and support for sex workers and more particularly a reaction to what we called misrepresentation, often from some individuals and organisations claiming to be champions of our cause. We are a non-for-profit, nongovernmental, non-religious organisation.
Which countries and/or regions do you work in?
Liberia. We have coverage in 9 counties out of 15 in Liberia.
Selling sex itself is illegal in Liberia - "A person has committed prostitution, an infraction, if he or she: (a) Is a resident in a house of prostitution, or engages in sexual activity therein or otherwise as a business; or (b) Solicits another person with the purpose of being hired to engage in sexual activity. "
Buying sex is also illegal in Liberia - a person has committed an infraction if he or she hires a 'prostitute' to engage in sexual activity with him or her, or if he or she enters or remains in a 'house of prostitution' for the purpose or engaging in sexual activity.
As an all inclusive alliance of sex workers and vulnerable women in Liberia, WRA’s priorities and strategies have been developed through consultations with members from the sex work community and target beneficiaries.
What are the priority areas that your organisation works in?
WRA has developed its core competency to mobilize and advocate for the rights for sex workers and vulnerable women in Liberia, and has been able to develop a membership, which believe and inspire, the following areas of focus:
• We enhance promotion and advocacy for human rights. We aim to increase safety and security for sex workers and vulnerable women through engaging with local authorities, security agencies and stakeholders into a discourse on basic human rights, protection of life and property of all. This shall be done in solidarity and partnership with local and international organisations/bodies and networks.
• We enhance access to health services for sex workers and vulnerable women. In a bid to improve the lives of sex workers and vulnerable women much needs to be done to offer health services and to open up access to these services specifically targeting the community. WRA commit to increase initiatives that can bring health services for the target community.
• We strongly believe that enhancing the livelihood skills of our target community is a pathway to improving their lives. WRA will focus on initiatives that build financial sustainability and independence such as basic business skills, and Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) that sex workers and vulnerable women can take advantage of to improve lives.
• We believe that robust and resilient organisations are key to increasing capacity to meaningful engagement and respond to the needs of our target communities. WRA will focus on building and strengthening our capacity through sourcing for training in areas that are lacking, sourcing for funding, developing and operationalising policies.
Do you provide services to sex workers? What kind?
- Human Rights: Work on increasing safety and security through establishing crisis response teams and emergency reporting mechanisms for sex workers and vulnerable women.
Advocate for promotion and protection of human rights through meaning-full engagement with authorities and local leaders.
Increase access to and uptake of psychosocial support by victims of Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
- Access to Health: Increase access to HIV/AIDS knowledge, testing, linkage to treatment and retention into ART.
Increase access to STI/STDs and encourage Hepatitis-B screening and referral for treatment.
Develop a strategy for epidemic response targeted at community level protection and safety as well as continue to live a life of dignity.
- Innovative Livelihood: Increase knowledge training on basic business skills. To ensure elementary numerical skills, savings and proper financial management
Design micro financing and seed-grants initiatives for individuals and groups of sex workers and vulnerable women to start up small side businesses.
Increase involvement in economic empowerment skills building in marketable products such as bead making, sanitary pads and soap making.
How are sex workers meaningfully included in the organisation?
We developed an inclusive governance structure that brings together community members and experts in development work. Members agree on the principles of operation and governance structure through a General Assembly process. The General Assembly (GA) is the highest body that elects the Executive Leadership (EL) comprising no more than eight (4) elected members. The EL is accountable to the Board of Directors who provides strategic guidance and assists the Secretariat in operationalising the alliance/organisation also will be accountable to the GA.
The Executive Leadership will be community members and is responsible for governance of WRA on behalf of the General Assembly. In specific terms, the Executive Leadership has the following responsibilities:
• Design the Executive Leadership structure and governance process, including ensuring proper election/nomination and succession policy for the Executive Leadership.
• Provide strategic leadership by determining the alliance’s values, services, vision, mission and strategic direction.
• Delegate management authority and responsibility to the Executive Director
Tell us about a big event or challenge you have worked on recently. For example, a campaign, a big event you worked on, etc. How did it go? What were the challenges?
Event Title: International Sex Workers Rights Day = Event Celebration
Details of the program:
On March 3 International Sex Workers Rights Day is celebrated every year to bring many things for sex workers to re-think, stand for up our rights and. During our event preparation for the International Sex Workers Rights Day 2021 program, rumours started going around that there was violence everywhere on minorities’ group gathering. Immediately after identifying the location for the program, the owner of the venue refused to transact business with the event team again. The rumours were circulated among all sex workers leadership in the various counties to be on the alert.
With all information given, leaderships in those counties who are usually invited for the celebration were asked to stay at their locations and not to attend. Because of this, the organisation office space was used to have two hours indoor program only with existing members and other few CSO that are involved in the same work we do. Finally the program was held without loud speaker, music and outdoor games as we usually do.
What challenges does your organisation face in the future?
No income or donor funding will lead to these future challenges:
- As the alliance which provides safe space for all sex workers, it will be serious challenge for the organisation in terms of office space
- Staff reduction
- Low provision of health services
Existing laws also present a future challenge because they are laws that criminalise sex work.
Does the organisation have a message for the sex worker rights movement?
Organisational Development: We believe that the movement will link us with opportunities that will enhance the capacity of the organisation to meaningfully engage and respond to the needs of our target communities. WRA will focus on building and strengthening our capacity through sourcing of training in areas that are lacking, sourcing funding, developing and operationalizing policies.
WRA ask that the movement assist in a fundraising strategy that will see the organisation achieve the financial and human resource needs of the strategic plan.
We believe the movement will assist in human resource capacity development as needed for an exchange visit on learning/training opportunities.
We believe in maintaining a strong network and partnership with likeminded organisations and supporters.
What about for people outside of the movement?
As an alliance, we seek zero violence, inclusiveness and equal opportunity on a non-discriminatory platform. We as sex workers want to inform the people outside that they should understand the idea to respect the dignity of the human person. “Work is work and we are leaving no one out’’.