History

The Red Umbrella Fund was launched in 2012 as the result of a dialogue spanning several years between donors and sex worker activists. Below a snap short of key events and developments that contributed to the development of the Red Umbrella Fund, in which a number of donors and the Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) played a key role.

In 2006 the Sexual Health and Rights Programme (SHARP), of the Open Society Foundation (OSF), published a report examining the extent of existing funding for sex workers’ health and rights organisations. The purpose of the report was to stimulate more constructive thought and conversation about the needs of sex workers and to promote better funding for this particular group. The results of this report showed a serious lack of funding for sex workers’ organisations which clearly had an impact on the situation of sex workers around the world.

In 2008 a Donor Dialogue on Sex Work and Trafficking (see full report here) was organised by the Open Society Foundation, NSWP and Crea. The objective was to create a space for conversation between donors and sex workers to better understand the nexus of sex work and trafficking. The dialogue showed a clear need to recognise and discuss the negative impact that anti-trafficking approaches have on the security, human rights and self-determination of sex workers.

In 2009, Open Society Foundation and Mama Cash organised a meeting of the Donor Collaboration to Advance the Human Rights of Sex Workers (see full report here), in collaboration with AIDS Fonds and HIVOS (the Netherlands), American Jewish World Service and Global Fund for Women (USA) and Oak Foundation (Switzerland). The meeting’s aim was to define those areas in the field of sex workers’ rights where donor attention is needed and to come up with a clear strategy for donor collaboration.

In preparation of a follow-up meeting in 2010, a mapping of trends and strategies in sex workers rights funding among donors was carried out, as well as a research into the options for effective donor collaboration in the field. In a number of follow-up meetings and conversations, the concept of the Red Umbrella Fund started to take shape.

In 2011, an interim International Steering Committee was created to set up the governance and administrative structures and select a host organisation. After a careful selection process, Mama Cash was selected as the host organisation of the Red Umbrella Fund.

In April 2012, The Red Umbrella Fund was officially launched as a new innovative global grant-making mechanism for, and by, sex workers.