Kindly tell us about yourself and your work
My name is Daughtie Ogutu. I am 34 years old and a mother of two. I am currently the Executive Director of The African Sex Workers Alliance – ASWA of which I am also one of the founding members. I have worked with ASWA since its inception in 2009. It’s practically my baby.
Which animal character would you best relate yourself to and why?
A lion. I have found myself in leadership roles all my life and have never been a spectator. I see something that needs to be done and I do – instinctively!
Why was the African Women Leadership Institute (AWLI) appealing for you to take part in as a leader?
I saw the AWLI as an opportunity to grow as a leader. I always wanted to do something incredible, ground breaking and all I needed was the extra push. The AWLI was more than just an extra push.
What were your expectations before joining and did the Institute live up to these expectations?
When I joined the AWLI, I didn’t know what to expect, since this was the very first leadership course I was taking. I met very incredible women at the AWLI – exceptional sisters and mentors who have been instrumental in my leadership journey.
What exactly about the experience at the institute is transcendent to your work today?
At the AWLI, I learnt the values and principles of feminism and movement building which are the core of my work. That sense of sisterhood and family ignited my passion to strive for women’s rights – to see all women freed from the shackles of patriarchy.
What has been your biggest achievement following the AWLI training you attended?
After the AWLI, I got to take part in the 1st African Sex Worker conference, which led to the birth of ASWA in 2009. Thereafter I was appointed as the Kenya National coordinator of the Kenyan Sex Workers Alliance which was really incredible. It was a chance for me to put my leadership skills into practice. I since moved to another organization, (Fahamu) where I also took part in designing and implementing the Sex Workers Leadership Institute, with many concepts I borrowed from the AWLI. It was an amazing experience transferring the skill and knowledge I gained to my community. This work led me to where I am at ASWA as the Executive Director.
How was your interaction with faculty, who were they and how exactly did they impact your journey during AWLI and beyond?
I met very incredible women at the AWLI - women who have mentored me, women whom I admire up till today. I made sisters, friends and mothers who are very much a part of my life today in the spheres of work and with whom I have deeply rooted relationships. The experience was life changing. I believe I would be a different person if I did not attend the AWLI.
How important is sisterhood and networking in your line of work, and did the institute support you in this regard?
When in a struggle against patriarchy particularly for gender equality, you need sisterhood. You need to know that you have people who you can always count on and rely on for support. Emotional, psychological and technical support.
Where did your passion for feminist leadership stem from?
I think I was born a feminist. I was always considered as rebellious but that was not the case. I would question things and did not always fit in. My inner feminist was there from my childhood and became radical as I grew up.
What adversities have you faced during your journey, how have you conquered them?
At every step of my life/career, every thing has been a battle and I have had to overcome these battles. Key of my challenges has been the stigma associated with living with HIV and the stigma of being a sex worker. People continue to be judgmental which usually throws me off balance but with time I have learnt that it’s their own insecurities causing this. My network of sisters has never stopped supporting me.
Many would regard you as a resilient African feminist who has immensely contributed to the advancement of young women’s rights. How have you managed to maintain this brand and what is your advice to young women aspiring to lead?
There are many resilient African feminists whose stories are untold. I choose to share my stories to inspire women, young women out there to never give up and to never lose hope.
Being a leader is not something you do, it’s who you are. That is the only logical explanation for being able to overcome obstacles over and over again. There is no silver bullet to being a leader. You learn as you go along and you also unlearn somethings along the way.
As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day, under the theme “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”, what in your opinion do you think are the critical issues that need to be addressed to advance women’s empowerment in Africa.
I think we are still far off from achieving gender equity and equality! In policy much is being done, but the hard work needs to be done to actually change societal attitudes and mind sets.
Sometimes the work we do can be challenging and draining at the same time; what do you to renew your energies?
The last couple of years have been extremely draining and difficult for me, both personally and professionally. I believe in a higher power so I pray and meditate a lot. I also party hard! You know the saying work hard, play even harder!
Who is your favorite African Female author?
Dr. Sylvia Tamale, I am featured in her book African Sexualities.
Why would you encourage young women out there to pursue the AWLI?
Every woman needs to go through the AWLI, the experience is totally life changing and it stays with you. It’s the key that unlocks your inner self regardless of one’s personality, background or even career path.
Any future plans/prospects for women in Africa?
At the moment I am focused on ASWA, the work being done by sex workers across the continent is ground breaking. The plan is to change the discourse on sex work to decriminalize sex work!