African Journal of Social Work

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Young, empowered and dignified: reversing the culture of sex work among Uganda’s urban youth through vocational skills training

Janestic Mwende Twikirize, Paul Fredrick Mugume, Julius Batemba


Sexual exploitation is considered as one of the worst forms of violence against children and women. Whilst a combination of factors have been advanced for involvement in sex work, including poverty and unemployment, lack of schooling, Violence against children and gender- based violence as well as the influence of urbanisation, research has shown that for most adolescent girls and young women in Uganda, sex work is engaged in as a source of livelihood and survival since they lack other viable alternatives. Despite its being criminalised, highly stigmatised and exploitative, young people in Uganda continue to engage in this trade particularly in urban areas. This paper examines outcomes of an intervention implemented by Plan International and Uganda Youth Development Link to empower sexually exploited girls and young women in Kampala, through vocational skills training. Data were collected through an evaluation study involving 210 project beneficiaries. The results show that providing young women with alternative livelihood skills is not only economically empowering but potentially reduces their vulnerability to sexual exploitation.

Keywords: Sex work, vocational skills, empowerment, livelihoods, Uganda

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