In March, Sisonke, (the national movement of sex workers in South Africa) and SWEAT launched a backabuddy fundraising campaign to help support the immediate needs of sex workers. We feared that as soon as the first lockdown was announced that there would be a rush on our emergency relief fund but we could not have predicted just how desperate the situation would become. Sex workers across the country were hit by a sudden and complete loss of income and they, and the families they support were left facing starvation. This situation was compounded by the fact that none of the initial relief funds announced by the State covered Sex Workers.
Criminalisation means that sex work is not recognised as work and the impact of that can be painfully seen at a time like this. Migrant sex workers and those who lack formal identity documents have been particularly hard hit due to exclusion from many relief schemes. The backabuddy campaign had an initial target of R20 000. To date we have received over R205 000 in donations. These have included very large donations from partner organisations and friends of our work internationally but also smaller donations from individuals who, despite their own difficulties at this time, were willing to put their hands into their pockets to support sex workers.
We have been overwhelmed by the generosity and solidarity shown and want to take this opportunity to thank each and every person who has contributed to date. You have not only literally saved lives but also sent a clear message of love and solidarity in these trying times. We also want to acknowledge those funders who have come to the party in allowing us to redirect money towards emergency relief, food parcels and PPE for staff and sex workers.
To date, including the backabuddy money, the funders support and our original emergency relief budgets we have been able to distribution over R200 000 in cash and food to sex workers across the country. We have also been able to support sex workers to access government food parcel schemes, supported their application for social grants, provided advice and referrals in relation to issues including GBV, eviction and human rights violations by the police and security forces.
The account remains open and your ongoing support is gratefully received. It will be many months before sex workers are able to start re-establishing their lives properly and their struggles to feed and support themselves and their families remain painfully real.
With gratitude and love,
Kholi Buthelezi – Sisonke National Coordinator
Emily Craven – SWEAT Director