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Job offer: Information Technology Consultant in Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP)
Christina Haralanova | 14 January 2007


In April 2005, the Public Health Program (PHP) of the Open Society Institute officially launched the Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP) to develop and implement a global strategy to improve the sexual health and rights of socially marginalized populations, particularly related to HIV/AIDS. SHARP’s strategic vision is to forge a niche that responds to opportunities and gaps in this nascent field to ensure that those who are stigmatized because of their sexual practices; real or perceived sexual orientation; ethnicity; and/or drug use have access to quality health and social services and ability to effectively advocate for their rights. Sex workers are one of the marginalized groups with which SHARP works closely.

Sex workers face a wide range of human rights abuses in all regions of the world, frequently as a result of the laws, policies, and practices of governments and state actors. Officials charged with enforcing prostitution laws routinely extort bribes, confessions, testimony, and other "favors" from sex workers. In the worst cases, police beat, detain, rape, and torture sex workers, and face little or no accountability for their actions because of sex workers’ relative powerlessness and social marginalization. Even well intentioned groups frequently support policies and services that violate sex workers’ human rights. For example, alleged "best practices" in HIV/AIDS work such as 100% condom-use polices have been implemented as the basis for sex worker surveillance and arrest. Likewise, raids to rescue sex workers often drive sex workers deeper underground away from programs that support their health and rights, destroy networks of support for people in sex work and, ironically, fail to help most trafficked persons. Girls and women ’rescued’ in such raids have been held in detention by governments in India, Thailand, the US and elsewhere, and then deported without assistance back into rights-violating environments.

In April of 2007 SHARP will host a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to bring together 30 sex worker network representatives and advocates from around the world to develop a sex worker-led global advocacy campaign addressing human rights abuses committed in the name of assisting sex workers. The objectives of the meeting are to:

- Develop key advocacy campaigns and media messages around sex worker health and rights issues, including: 100% condom use programs; anti-trafficking raid and rescues; end demand legislation; and other harmful policies;
- Find ways to better communicate, share resources, and campaign through improved information technology (IT) tools;
- Develop rapid response plans to challenge abolitionist news and information as soon as it is released;
- Flesh out strategies which ensure that sex workers are at the forefront of all service and policy initiatives that effect their health and rights;
- Brainstorm how to get allies to campaign and what messages are we looking for them to spread;
- Determine how sex worker networks can communicate and collaborate more effectively on shared interests.

Technology issues for ses worker networking

Cheap and effective communication between sex worker networks within countries, in the regions and globally has been and still is a major challenge to networking and effective joint action. The others are language and resources. The costs of telecommunication and lack of access to higher technology has meant that network communication is often sporadic and limited to those who speak English or share another common language.

As various new communication technologies become available in countries across the world it is necessary for sex worker organizations to take stock of what technologies sex worker groups, projects and allied organizations have access to and work out how to make the best use of those technologies for communication, network building and joint campaigns and advocacy. We are interested in exploring technologies that are assessable to as many organizations as possible- looking at two major areas of technology: computer and internet access and cellular phone/ mobile web access.

Consultant’s responsibilities

The consultant will be responsible for the following activities:
- Developing a questionnaire gauging the IT knowledge and resources presently available to sex worker groups, and the accessibility of those resources;
- Collaborating with SHARP and the meeting steering committee to develop a meeting agenda which contextualizes information technology tools by demonstrating their relevance and uses for sex worker rights advocacy;
- Meeting with 2 to 3 sex worker organizations with various IT experience and resources to evaluate IT needs first hand;
- Leading 3-4 sessions during the 3 day meeting in Phenom Pehn; (The sessions will explain the types of IT tools practical for these groups and how they can effectively incorporate them into their overall advocacy and organizing strategies.)
- Providing 4 consultant days of online and/ or telephone support to meeting participants during the 4 months following the meeting.

Materials produced

- Questionnaire on the IT knowledge of sex worker groups;
- 2-3 page synopsis of IT questionnaire findings for distribution prior to the April meeting;
- Plans for 3-4 sessions during the Phenom Pehn meeting;
- A 3-4 page report based on the IT questionnaire and April meeting, outlining the consultant’s IT recommendations for implementing the advocacy campaign developed during the meeting.

Duration: February - August, 2007

Please send a cover letter, resume, day rate and estimate to Rachel Thomas by January 31, 2007.

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