Today is Sex Worker Pride day, a day for sex worker community to celebrate their achievements and share stories of sex workers’ self-determination while honouring the tireless efforts of colleagues everywhere to secure rights and safety for all sex workers. It is an opportunity to celebrate and share stories of sex workers’ self-determination and the achievements of the sex worker rights movement.
After its introduction by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), the Sex Worker Pride day becomes the fourth annual key date of the sex workers rights movement. Globally sex workers face many challenges in day to day life. They are being marginalised, stigmatised and stripped from their rights. Their voices are often ignored but they never stop pursuing the rights they desperately need. The sex workers rights movement is powerful with a vibrant and diverse community that has drive and compassion that’s too big to be stopped by the difficulties they are facing.
Sex Worker Pride extends to all marginalised by criminalisation, discrimination and stigma across the sex worker movement and celebrates the diversity within our community during International Sex Worker Pride.
To mark the first Sex Worker Pride day, our colleagues from the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN), a sex worker-led regional network in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia publishes its Annual Report that shows SWAN’s work in diverse areas in order to achieve our objectives as laid out in our Strategic Plan 2018-2022. We join our members, colleagues and allies in celebrating our never ending passion for creating a better world for sex workers.
In Greece, the phrase “Take care of each other” continues to inspire the team of Red Umbrella Athens. A new initiative of the Day Centre and the DPNSEE member organisation Positive Voice Roadmap is the “Before You Enter, Put In” campaign. This is an attempt to sensitize sex studio clients to avoid taking photos or videos in their respective locations without the consent of the people working there. As part of Red Umbrella Athens team visits to sex studios, this issue has often been communicated as a major problem that disrupts their functioning.
Organisation STAR-STAR from North Macedonia, the First Sex Workers Collective in the Balkans, released a video to mark the Sex Worker Pride day.
On the margins of the dialogue between civil society and donors, representatives of the Open Society Foundations visited DPNSEE office on 18 January 2018: Daniel Wolfe, director of International Harm Reduction Development, Julia Greenberg, director of Governance and Financing, and Ekaterina Lukicheva, program officer for the International Harm Reduction Development Program (all three from the OSF Public Health Programme) along with Raminta Štuikyte, consultant. Vice-President Nebojša Đurasović, Secretary of the Board Denis Dedajić and Executive Director Milutin Milošević welcomed the distinguished guests.
DPNSEE hosts presented work and potentials of the Network and answered many questions. Guests were especially interested by the fact that DPNSEE gathers member organisations from all SEE countries and that it has a wide approach to the issue, including various elements of drug policy. They underlined that their full withdrawal from the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia is not good so they decided to assign funds to it. In 2017, they already supported two CSO projects in Montenegro with and they still have funds for support to Bosnia Herzegovina, Romania and Serbia which were not distributed, while for 2018 they have planned additional support to the region. Agreement was reached, in principle, that DPNSEE will implement a project on budget advocacy and implementation in Serbia, on local and national level. DPNSEE also proposed such an initiative on the regional level. Discussions about potential cooperation extended throughout the next two days of meetings.
Before the meetings in Belgrade, OSF and GF representatives visited Montenegro to discuss implementation of the two project they finance since 2017 and preparations for the national project application to the Global Fund. Our member organisations Cazas and Juventas were involved in the meetings.
Representatives of Margina and Viktorija had working meetings with both OSF and GF representatives. Result of the meetings is that the same support as the one for Montenegro is proposed for Bosnia Herzegovina, for a similar project adjusted to the structure of the country. Two projects are foreseen: one on accreditation of the harm reduction services in the Republic of Srpska and other on social contracting in the Federation of BH. The trigger for this decision was presentation which Denis had as panellist.
The OSF visit ended with visit to the Drop-in for drug users and Shelter for sex workers in Novi Sad managed by Prevent. The visit was very effective, with excellent presentation of Prevent’s work and very emotional discussion with three sex workers in the Shelter. At the end the guests (including representatives of SWAN and Mama Cash foundation) haven’t made any concrete promise for support but they expressed their willingness to help finding donors. The visit should be used as a model for welcoming donors and convincing them to finance services.
The Open Society Foundations convened civil society activists from HIV, harm reduction, sex worker and LGBT communities from South Eastern Europe and health and human rights donors to discuss opportunities for strategic collaboration to sustain HIV prevention services for key populations and facilitate transition to domestic financing of these programs. The half-day meeting was held on 18 January 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia.
The aims of the meeting were:
Share examples of civil society advocacy towards domestic financing of HIV services, including efforts to push national governments to commit to provision and financing of services for key populations;
Discuss current challenges sustaining programming for key populations in the region with a specific focus on the threats to the human rights movements, programs, and advocates that were directly and indirectly supported by the Global Fund when it was still active in the region;
Present examples of how targeted donor support for civil society engagement in transition and sustainability process can bolster government ownership of the HIV response;
Discuss strategies and opportunities to address the service gap and enable civil society to navigate the transition process, as well as roles that donors, regional networks and technical agencies can play.
DPNSEE member organisations representatives were panellists: Denis from Margina and Dragos from RHRN presenting situation in Bosnia Herzegovina and Romania, Ivana from Juventas presenting the promising case study of Montenegro and Milutin, together with two other networks (ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey and SWAN – Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network) on possibilities for work together to strengthen national and regional advocacy.
Many organisations were at the list of potential invitees. Finally, around 35 CSO participated. Besides DPNSEE, 9 member organisations were present: Aksion Plus, Margina, Viktorija, Labyrinth, Cazas, Juventas, ARAS, RHRN and Prevent.
The meeting was mainly about presenting situation and needs, with not many questions and comments from the floor. Most of the results were achieved in informal exchanges with other participants. Besides OSF and Global Fund representatives, donors included Embassy of France in Serbia, Mama Cash and Reconstruction Women’s Fund (Serbia). Representatives of other Networks included Eurasian Harm Reduction Network and Eurasian coalition on male Health.
Just after the main meeting of the dialogue, an Informal dialogue on LGBTI and HIV in South-Eastern Europe was organised by the ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey. Most of the DPNSEE member organisations participated in the meeting that addressed the current work done, gaps and challenges in collaborating towards protecting LGBTI rights and addressing HIV and needs and opportunities for a regional approach and support of this work.
Preparing for the regional dialogue with donors, civil society organisations from South East Europe met in Belgrade, Serbia on 17 January 2018. The aim of the meeting is to discuss current developments regarding the work of the South East Europe Regional Coordinating Mechanism (RCM) and preparation process of the multi-country application, possible cooperation with EECA regional networks as well as opportunities for advocacy funding initiatives sustaining HIV prevention services in South East Europe. Around 30 representatives of the civil society organisations (CSOs) from all SEE countries participated.
Ana Filipovska, the RCM Coordinator and Milutin Milošević, DPNSEE Executive Director, presented recent work of the RCM and the call for multi-country application to the Global Fund to fight HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. The presentations and discussions following then helped to clarify some misunderstandings. Two regional initiatives for the project to the Global Fund were presented – Alliance and EHRA, ECOM, SWAN.
CSOs were invited to actively contribute to the work of Country Coordinating Mechanisms in expressing the country needs and designing a regional project.
The meeting was organised by HERA and Zaedno Posilni, supported by the Open Society Foundations.