A group of 15 funders are gathered in a small bar in the Raval neighbourhood in Barcelona’s city centre. ‘What is your commitment to our movement? How will you contribute to our work?’ asks Jennie*, a local activist.
Silence. And hope and energy.
Many funders were ready to be challenged, were ready to take action. Jennie and her colleagues had volunteered the past few hours, as most activists will, to share about their work, achievements and struggles with a group of visiting donors.
In this case, the group was part of the EDGE Funders’ Alliance annual conference: ‘Re/organising power for systems change’, a gathering of over 250 people from about 80 grantmakers and dozens of social movement organisations mainly from the US and Europe, and from a few other parts of the world.
Our tour guides were from local sex worker collective, the Putas Indignadas (Indignant Whores), from a sex workers’ rights group called Genera (Generate), and supported by funder-allies Calala Women’s Fund (Barcelona) and the Red Umbrella Fund (Amsterdam).
The commitments came, but so did the questions: ‘What is your role in the community?’. One sex worker responded with her experience of being elected to the Barcelona city council. It was both invigorating and challenging for her to face off with traditional politicians who negated her knowledge and right to participate in democratic process. ‘We as sex workers are agents within social movements. The stigma we experience is an acute manifestation of the discrimination that women, the working class, and poor people face.’
One donor committed to continuing to support sex worker-led organising as a part of her fund’s work. Another donor committed to make a concerted effort to seek out and learn about sex workers in their local context.
No just issue exists in a vacuum. ‘When we dignify sex work by improving our working conditions and recognising our rights, it does not only reduce violence against sex workers, but it reduces violence against all women.’ And in the spirit of solidarity across movements and across sectors, this gathering of funders and sex workers raised a glass to human rights, dignity and self-determination.
Amanda Gigler is Director of Philanthropic Partnerships and Communications for Mama Cash.
*The names of those present are not shared to preserve people’s rights to privacy.
You can read more from the 2017 EDGE Funders annual conference here.