Womens Network for Unity (WNU)
Womens Network For Unity is grassroots representative collective of
Phnom Penh based Sex Workers. The network seeks to promote the rights
of Sex Workers to earn a living in a safe environment, free from exploitation
and social stigma.
Network hopes to expand to include all provinces in Cambodia in the
future, but at this early stage, we work through peer education, advocacy
and public education of our lives and rights primarily in the Cambodian
capital, Phnom Penh. The network has approximately 5000 active members
in 13 provinces and cities in Cambodia and we hope to be able to provide
the same level of services and support to these members as those in
of the network
Network was formed in 2000 to provide a space for workers to voice their
concerns and advocate to Members of Parliament and Ministers of State
for changes that would improve their lives. Late in 2002, the workers
collective decided that the existing representative structure, with
local NGO's providing the conduit for advocacy, was not representing
their best interests.
in 2003, a meeting of over 160 Female, Male and Trans-Gendered Sex Workers
was held in order to decide on future direction of the collective. It
was decided that representative elections would take place to provide
representatives from the workers groups themselves. In future, these
elected representatives would represent the workers directly and undertake
peer education, advocacy and public awareness campaigns. The election
process elected five Female (out of 15 candidates) and two Trans-gendered
(out of five candidates) representatives who have formed a Secretariat.
The Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) group will elect members for their
representation at a later date.
Womyn's Agenda For Change (WAC) Project is providing a space for the
Secretariat to operate and is assisting in providing them links to Sex
Worker groups and Organisations throughout Asia and the World. To contact
the secretariat by email, send your messages to firstname.lastname@example.org
Anniversary Press Release (28 June 2002)
Womens Network For Unity was established in June 2000 by a group of
sex workers for sex workers. The network aims to provide a foundation
for support for one of Cambodia's most vulnerable groups.
network centres on building solidarity and self empowerment among sex
workers as one of the only successful proven strategies to minimise
HIV/AIDS. The network provides a space for women to come together, share
ideas and discuss the collective challenges they face.
network has made significant achievements since its inception in 2000
- sex workers have improved their attitudes to healthcare and approaches
to HIV/AIDS prevention; improved their client negotiation skills; gained
the courage to speak out about their problems; engaged in information
sharing from workshops on HIV/AIDS and sex worker rights with their
friends and peers. Together they have achieved solidarity and the collective
strength that comes from one voice. They have an understanding of the
value of their lives, and the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention.
The sex workers at the celebration will perform role plays, jokes and
sing songs that describe the reasons they became sex workers and speak
of the issues they face in their daily lives: social discrimination,
violence, HIV/AIDS, debt, extortion, rape and the struggle to support
sharing these experiences, the sex workers hope hope to improve public
understanding of their situation. They call on the government to support
them in their struggle against inequality, discrimination, violence
and economic hardship. If they do not sell sex, how can they support
if you think that my work is not good for Cambodian society, then the
government should find land for us to build a house and make a living",
said a sex worker from the network.
don't want to be a sex worker but if you close the brothels and karaoke
bars can you give me some capital to start a business? If I had this,
I would stop sex work", said another network member.
the government sends the girls to learn skills at NGO's, they can only
support themselves. How can they support their sisters, brothers and
families? Their families depend on their income for survival",
asked a sex worker from the network.
3,400 [early 2002 figures] people from 13 provinces are active members
in the Sex Workers Network for Unity. In the future, the sex workers
would like to continue to self organise. They would like to establish
their own association, and continue to reach out and build solidarity
with sex workers around the country, and reduce HIV/AIDS.