Donors should increase funding to sex worker-led organizations to improve support for their work.
This call comes amid reports that the global amount of grant making invested in sex worker health and rights organisations is small, and that the vast majority of financial support comes in the form of HIV prevention funding.
There have been concerns that most funders have been re-directing funding towards a ‘Treatment as Prevention’ approach to HIV, with a focus on increased testing with less funding and attention for proven successful prevention strategies such as peer education, community development, and community-led peer education.
In a survey titled: ‘Funding for sex worker rights: Opportunities for Foundations to Fund More and Better’ released recently, sex worker organisations say they are afraid that changes in the HIV landscape are creating funding for new testing technologies, but detracting funding from prevention mechanisms that have proven successful.
The survey was conducted by Mama Cash, the Open Society Foundations and the Red Umbrella Fund.
“Donors should consider building capacity in two ways when they fund sex worker rights. They can support the movement through core support, capacity building and peer-to-peer learning. But also, they can assist in building sex worker leadership within organisations through mentoring and other approaches,” said Anne Gathumbi from the Open Society Foundations.
One of the key findings of the research was that sex worker organisations need support for all areas of their work, but particularly funding for policy and advocacy, legal services and organisational development.
Sex worker organisations surveyed indicated a need for increased funding for programmes to combat physical and sexual violence and counter stigma and discrimination. This includes support for self-organising, organisational capacity building, and leadership building in this area of work.
According to the report, sex workers are organising to claim their rights but funding for these initiatives, critical to these groups’ ability to increase their effectiveness, has been minimal.
“Sex workers are organising to claim their rights but funding for these initiatives, critical to these groups’ ability to increase their effectiveness, has been minimal,” says the report.
The researchers say the sex worker rights’ movement’s success hinges on catalysing additional, appropriate, and sustained funding. Sex workers want priorities and perspectives of sex workers when setting funding priorities included.
“Fund us for who we are. Don’t force us to moderate our tone and divide our work into projects. We need funders who will back us,” one respondent said.
Read the full report here: