Dorothy Ogutu

The African Sex Workers Alliance- ASWA is the Pan African movement of sex workers which brings on board female, male, intersex and transgender sex workers.

At the helm of this grand movement is Dorothy Ogutu, popularly referred in the movement as the Amarula girl.

“I got the name Amarula girl when I worked as a sex worker in Mombasa at the Kenyan Coast in the year 2007; Amarula was in reference to my chocolate skin that resembled the Amarula drink” stated a relaxed Daughtie during the interview.

A founding member of ASWA, Daughtie was selected to represent sex workers in a meeting that brought together representatives of sex workers from East Africa. The meeting, organised by “Akina Mama wa Africa”, was the first of its kind and Daughtie was very excited to finally have a platform where she could champion for sex workers rights and also exchange views with other sex workers from across East Africa. They all expressed a desire to have an African movement of sex workers.

For Daughtie, this meeting outcome was very powerful and all was now in her arms to make the movement a reality.

“The turning point for me was going through the Akina Mama wa Afrika African Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI), in East Africa for sex workers. That was a ground-breaking experience and I am honored that it gave me the space to express myself as a sex worker and living with HIV without fear of judgment or ridicule.  And then subsequently having my story published where I dared to be powerful. It was indeed powerful if you peruse the number of women out there whom I inspired.” Daughtie noted.

Daughtie was later invited to South Africa together with other Africa sex work leaders where the Mombasa idea eventually became a reality by the name ASWA.

Currently, Daughtie is the Regional Co-coordinator of ASWA. Daughtie’s job involves engaging ASWA’s members who are sex workers organizations and those offering services to sex workers. ASWA provides technical support and linkages to relevant partners in response to members’ needs. For instance, following the anti-pornography bill in Uganda, sex workers and especially the trans community suffered a lot abuses, ranging from violence, incarceration, threats and even murder. ASWA provided the much needed support and linkages to partners like Urgent Action Fund.

The duty of providing a platform for sex workers also involves bringing them together at regional conferences like the last ICASA that was held in South Africa. Daughtie notes that the selection is mind-numbing and involves running a scholarship for sex workers that is then able to pick out diversity, leadership and equity in order to maximize the representation of sex workers at the conference.

Daughtie can also be described as a digital savvy leader, always a tweet and a post away. On her way to London to do a presentation at Amnesty International where she was to lodge an evidence based case for decriminalisation of sex work as opposed to partial decriminalisation that criminalises clients and third parties, Daughtie posted “How does tiny small petite Daughtie Amarula, persuade 72 Directors of Amnesty International to support full decriminalisation of sex work. Sometimes I think I am entrusted with greater things in life, than I am…”

For Daughtie sex work as well as the politics around it is very personal, she thus takes it all to the spaces available for her including the mainstream and social media. However she realises the need to protect her private sphere, especially where she risks hurting her children.

Profile written by one of our regional correspondents based in Africa.