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08 November 2023
1-2 PM UTC | 9-10 AM EST | 3-4 PM CET | 4-5 PM EAT

The Impact of Open Society Foundation’s Funding Withdrawal on the Sex Worker Rights Movement & Recommendations for a Path Forward

Events Funding Ecosystem

Organized by Sex Work Donor Collaborative

Globally, we are experiencing a determined, well-funded pattern of rollbacks to bodily autonomy and human rights in the form of reproductive restrictions and increasing hostility towards LGBTQIA+ people and migrants. Central to defending these basic freedoms are sex workers, who have organized against coercive control, state violence, discrimination, surveillance, censorship, and criminalization for decades. As a deeply intersectional community, sex workers are more likely to face multiple forms of economic, political, and social oppression. Yet these movements are steadfast in their defense of rights and bodily autonomy around the globe, as Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) has documented. As we witness the rise of a religious authoritarian right worldwide, the need to incorporate sex worker advocates into our movements for liberation has never been so apparent.

In spite of their key role, year after year sex worker movements receive less than 1% of all global human rights funding from foundations. And that figure is set to plummet even further.

The Open Society Foundations (OSF) have been at the forefront of supporting marginalized communities, and until recently were the largest donor to sex worker rights organizations globally. In the early 2020s, OSF restructured, ending its global giving to sex worker movements. In response, the Sex Work Donor Collaborative worked with OSF and Strength in Numbers Consulting Group to document the impact of OSF’s withdrawal on sex worker movements in the context of the funding landscape. Researchers interviewed sex worker activists and reviewed grants data, finding that OSF had contributed $9 million over the last 5 years to these movements, and also played a key role as a movement builder, trusted confidant, and advisor.

In this briefing, we will hear from researchers, funder allies, and the global sex worker rights movement about how this impact has been felt on the ground in impacted organizations and communities. We will learn how sex worker rights movements, and other movements affected by such funding decisions, can creatively respond, and how allied funders can collaborate to take action.

Moderator: Sienna Baskin, Sex Work Donor Collaborative

Erin Howe, Principal Consultant, Strength in Numbers Consulting Group
Beksahn Jang, Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Associate, Strength in Numbers Consulting Group
Phelister Abdalla, National Coordinator of Kenyan Sex Workers Alliance and President of Global Network of Sex Work Projects
Mukami Marete, Co-Executive Director – UHAI EASHRI

The Sex Work Donor Collaborative (SWDC) is a network of funders that have come together to increase the amount and quality of funding to support sex workers’ rights. This is achieved through strategic coordination of grant-making, research, and advocacy in partnership with sex worker-led organizations and networks.

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