Red Umbrella Fund is the first and only global fund dedicated to supporting the rights of sex workers. It was established in 2012 to respond to the lack of funding available for sex workers’ rights organising. In line with its core values of autonomy and ownership, Red Umbrella Fund is a sex worker-led, participatory fund.
What We Do
Red Umbrella Fund works to strengthen and ensure the sustainability of the global sex workers’ rights movement by catalysing new funding specifically for sex worker-led groups and national and regional networks. We support community-led groups and networks that work to ensure sex workers’ rights are respected as human beings and as workers, so that all sex workers can live lives free from criminalisation, stigma and violence.
All our work is guided by these values and operating principles:
• Autonomy: We respect self-determination of sex workers.
• Sex work is work: We oppose criminalisation and all forms of stigma and discrimination against sex workers. We recognise that sex work is work.
• Rights-based: We commit to supporting advocacy for rights-based policies, laws and practices that are rooted in evidence of what works, as analysed from sex workers’ perspectives.
• Ownership: We believe that sex workers must be in charge of design, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies that affect them.
• Diversity: We embrace the diversity of sex workers and support sex workers of all genders, sexualities, and life experiences. We also recognise that some sex workers are particularly impacted by intersecting forms of marginalisation and commit to including them in all our work.
• Accountable: We commit to advocacy and funding processes that are transparent and accountable to the sex workers’ rights movement.
• Learning: We commit to learning and using what we learn to inform our grantmaking and advocacy and to demonstrate the value of working collaboratively.
Red Umbrella Fund pursues three mutually-reinforcing strategies:
Our ambition is to fuel a strong, diverse and collaborative sex workers’ rights movement that can bring a real change to our communities. We reaffirm our commitment to funding sex worker-led groups and networks that work to advance the human rights of sex workers. This might include advocating for better laws and policies, but also ending stigma, violence, and discrimination.
Diversity and inclusion remain core values in our grantmaking. We support sex workers of all genders and prioritise those who are most marginalised or face multiple forms of discrimination. This includes supporting emerging groups that have the least access to resources yet are well positioned to make change, while also recognising the important role of groups with more experience and capacity. Our grants support groups in all regions of the world.
We understand that change is rarely achieved by isolated efforts. We support our grantees in building strategic alliances with others, where they see the need. We recognise that international networks play an important role in building capacity of their members and amplifying their messages. We fund international sex worker-led networks that work collaboratively with their members and allies and increase opportunities for collaboration and advocacy.
Social transformation takes time and does not follow a linear path. All our grants are unrestricted and flexible. We trust our grantees to set their own priorities and determine their own strategies based on their needs and vision. We continue to provide two-year grants but aim to also offer opportunities when possible for longer-term support to organisations who are best placed to contribute to lasting change for their communities.
Strong movements are made of strong organisations and activists, working together. We want to see our grantees grow their capacities, skills, leadership and partnerships for change and to feel supported on this journey. Grantees can use our grants to set their own priorities for growth and identify appropriate resources and opportunities, including by sharing knowledge and working together with others.
We accompany our grantees with flexible and personal technical assistance in the form of guidance, mentorship and introductions. This includes constructive feedback on grant applications and reports, help with planning, budgeting and financial reporting, as well as connections to (peer) learning or funding opportunities. Where relevant and desired, we contribute to the visibility of our grantees by publishing about their work. Our accompaniment activities are always tailored to the specific needs of our grantees.
Red Umbrella Fund aims to catalyse more and better funding for sex worker-led organisations and networks from public and private funders. We want to see more resources available to community groups and for those resources to be better attuned to the movements’ needs and priorities. This means funding that is accessible, unrestricted, flexible, multi-year, and human rights based.
We do this by raising the visibility of the sex workers’ rights movements among funders. By actively sharing our knowledge and experiences and contributing to funder dialogues, we encourage and support funders to develop a nuanced understanding of what sex workers’ rights are and how they intersect with other social justice issues. We also serve as a resource on the best ways to support community-led organisations for change.
We participate in relevant funder convenings and networks and strategically collaborate with allied funders to increase our effectiveness and reach. We believe there is power in sex workers’ participation in funder spaces as peers and grantmakers and we commit to further advancing sex workers’ leadership in our advocacy work.
Since our creation in 2012, we have seen several funders commit to supporting sex workers’ rights. Building on this momentum, we will expand our funder advocacy workplan and budget during this strategic plan period.
A strong sex workers’ rights movement needs not only better funding, but also power and autonomy in making decisions about how to use this funding to fuel change. Only when sex workers have a real seat at the table in funding decisions can real change be achieved. Our participatory and activist-led model, which was designed by sex workers and which has sex workers in the majority in our strategic decision making and grants selection bodies, is central to making this vision a reality.
Sex workers’ leadership in strategy and grants decisions promotes transparency and accountability to the sex workers’ rights movement, and makes sure our funding is well directed. We facilitate sex workers’ leadership by providing language support to sex workers who are not English speakers, conducting one-on-one orientation sessions, offering (peer) mentorship and learning opportunities, and respecting community activists’ lived experiences and expertise.
We encourage funders to learn from our innovative, activist-led and participatory model and to embrace the principle of “nothing about us without us”. This means engaging sex workers in funding decisions and enabling sex workers’ meaningful leadership.
In addition to these three key strategies, Red Umbrella Fund is committed to participatory governance where a majority of the people involved in our governance and grantmaking structures will always be sex workers.
Red Umbrella Fund was launched in 2012 as the result of a dialogue spanning several years between donors and sex worker activists. Below is a snap shot of key events and developments that contributed to the development of Red Umbrella Fund, in which a number of donors and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) played a key role.
Red Umbrella Fund’s Annual Reports include highlights from the year and introductions to our grantee-partners.
Strategic Plan 2020-2025
In preparation for Red Umbrella Fund’s second strategic plan, we reflected on our work to date: what have we accomplished, what have we learned, and how can we use these lessons to plan for the future.