March 2022 issue of Responsive Philanthropy highlights sex worker-led initiatives and challenges funders to provide bolder support for those who are innovative leaders working at the
intersection of class, race, gender and other current social issues.
WASHINGTON, DC – Though stigmatized and criminalized, sex workers are often at the center of the most important human rights work, innovating to address intersecting oppressions in powerful, effective ways. That’s why the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) is highlighting the important work of sex workers in the March 2022 issue of its journal, Responsive Philanthropy.
Articles from funders, grant recipients, and volunteers provide insight into the triumphs and challenges of sex worker-led organizations to build community and advocate for themselves. Each author stresses the need for unrestricted, multi-year grants and the life-giving role of radical art in this movement, with beautiful illustrations, commissioned by the groups themselves, sprinkled throughout this issue.
“Sex worker–led spaces have consistently been what I have considered to be my movement homes,” writes guest editor and NCRP Movement Engagement Manager Brandi Collins-Calhoun. “The frontlines across movements, from labor rights, racial justice, reproductive access, LGBTQ rights and gender equality, are being led and influenced by sex workers.”
NCRP leaders hope that the issue helps dispel some of the myths and misconceptions that keeps and their efforts under-resourced and ignored. Despite their leadership role in and adjacent to current social justice movements, only 1% of foundation human rights funding from 2015–2019, was specifically directed to sex worker-led organizations and initiatives.
“Hearing and learning directly from frontline voices in this movement is critical for all of us engaged in working for a better world,” said NCRP President & CEO Aaron Dorfman. “By highlighting their work, we hope that more of our colleagues recognize that investing in those organizations fuels movements and subverts misogyny and respectability endemic in the philanthropic sector.”
INSIDE THE MARCH ‘FROM THE FRONTLINES: UNDERSTANDING SEX WORKER-LED MOVEMENTS’ ISSUE
The following articles and all past issues of Responsive Philanthropy are available at no cost on NCRP’s website, ncrp.org:
Third Wave Fund, NCRP’s 2021 winner of the “Smashing Silos” Impact Award, shares four key lessons funders can use as they support sex worker-led organizations: provide unrestricted, multi-year grants, center trauma-informed, empathetic grantmaking, build multilingual grantmaking structures and emphasize language justice, and stop demanding fiscal sponsors, an imposition for some of the most effective groups. They write, “Directly funding the well-being, bodily autonomy and organizing of sex workers most impacted by oppression is in itself a radical vision and our biggest impact.”
Sex Worker Outreach Project Los Angeles (SWOP LA) is an all-volunteer, sex worker-led organization doing transformative mutual aid work. When they point out “the precious time that could be spent providing direct services to workers is wasted on another rejected application that won’t address the growing gap in our financial resources to support our community,” the SWOP LA team again highlights that unrestricted multi-year grants are essential to their work’s survival.
The Kua ’ana Project is at the intersection of public health, decriminalization, Indigenous rights, and the rights of trans and gender expansive people as they serve the Pasifika trans women and sex workers in Honolulu. Maddalyn Sesepasara, who leads the project, explains that steady allyship means that organizations like hers have enough funding to support both direct service and advocacy efforts, which are equally important.
In this piece, Red Schulte and contributors from the Support Ho(s)e collective share their personal experiences with the best and worst funders. There are so few funders in the space that when mistakes are made there is a lack of accountability for funders that leads to compounding violence for organizers.
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) has served as philanthropy’s critical friend and independent watchdog since 1976. We work with foundations, nonprofits, social justice movements and other leaders to ensure that the sector is transparent with, and accountable to, those with the least wealth, power, and opportunity in American society.
Our storytelling, advocacy and research efforts, in partnership with grantees, help funders fulfill their moral and practical duty to build, share and wield economic resources and power to serve public purposes in pursuit of justice.
Together, we can create a just and equitable world where all communities get the resources they need to thrive.