Current members of the International Steering Committee (ISC) of the Red Umbrella Fund:
Phelister Abdalla is the National Coordinator of the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance (KESWA). She was born in Mombasa, Kenya, but currently resides in Nairobi. She is a single mother of three, and an active sex worker living with HIV for the last 11 years. When KESWA was formed, Phelister acted as the regional coordinator in Mombasa. When the organization faced instability, Phelister used her vision and passion for sex workers’ rights to move to Nairobi to rejuvenate the organization in 2012. Since then, KESWA has become a network to over 60 sex worker led organizations, built strong partnerships, strengthened access to legal, health and human rights services, and worked with members to develop a strategic plan with a new vision, mission and goals. Throughout her life, Phelister has focused her energy toward the inclusive participation of sex workers in planning, decision making and implementation of programs.
Heather Benjamin works as a program officer focused on financing for health and rights at Open Society Foundations’ Public Health Program. She advocates for global health financing for rights-based and community-led responses for sex workers, people who use drugs, and LGBTI communities. As a grantmaker, she supports community participation and advocacy in health financing decision-making spaces. Prior to joining OSF, Heather worked on gender-based violence as a community organizer and service provider. Heather served as the program director of Close to Home, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to preventing and reducing the impact of violence through community mobilization. She developed programming alongside community organizers to implement neighbor-to-neighbor responses for those experiencing and using violence, and worked to shift social norms that perpetuate violence through conversation, art, and peer-led training.
Tara Burns lives in Alaska, where she’s a board member of the Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP). She’s the author of the Whore Diaries series, and has written about sex work issues for AlterNet, VICE, The New Inquiry, the Anchorage Press, and others. When she isn’t writing and lobbying, she’s making public records requests at the cutting edge of research by the people and for the people.
Tishauna Edwards is a 26 year old sex worker from Guyana. She has been a human rights activist fighting for the rights of sex workers since 2010. Tishauna has worked as the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for the One Love Organization, and more recently the Guyana Sex Work Coalition and the Caribbean Sex Work Coalition. Tishauna is passionate about advocacy, and spends much of her time speaking with sex workers about the challenges they face and how the local organizations can assist. This has led to the development of programming around the sensitization of health care workers and police officers to the unique issues faced by sex workers in Guyana. In her spare time, she is often doing outreach with street-based workers. She is similarly dedicated to regional advocacy and capacity building with sex workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Belize, and Suriname.
Natalia Isaieva is a human rights activist living with HIV for more than 18 years, and a sex worker with more than 15 years of experience. Since 2006, Nataliia has advocated for the rights of people living with HIV. Nataliia currently works as Executive Director of Legalife, sits on the board of NSWP, acts as Chairman of SWAN’s Steering Committee, is a regional expert on the Global Fund in NSWP in the EECA region and works as consultant for TAMPEP, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine, and AFEW International. Nataliia is a member of her city council where she represent the interests of sex workers. She firmly believes that sex work should be decriminalized in Ukraine and around the world.Natalia believes that in order to achieve this goal, it is necessary to invest in community development and empower community leaders to ensure meaningful participation.
Javid Syed is the director of AJWS’s Sexual Health and Rights department. He came to AJWS with a decade of experience in helping communities develop their capacity to pursue social justice. Most recently, Javid worked as the TB/HIV project director at the Treatment Action Group. Javid has contributed to community organizing efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of color. He helped found the Audre Lorde Project, a center for community organizing for queer people of color in New York, and volunteered with the South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association of New York and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and the NY Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Javid has a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University. He hopes that his passion for politics, arts and activism comes through in the work he engages in. Javid is originally from Bombay, India, and has lived in the United States since 1989.
Ankit Gupta is a queer feminist and sex worker activist passionate about sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially for people from marginalized communities, including queer and trans people and sex workers. Ankit is passionate about working with funders and supporting organizations, especially in Global South who are advancing human rights of marginalized populations. Ankit works as the Program Officer for Global Fund for Women and previously served on the Program Advisory Committee (PAC) of Red Umbrella Fund. They were a member of Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) and served on the Board of Directors of Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) – USA, a social justice network dedicated to fundamental human rights of people involved in the sex trade. They serve on the Advisory Group to The Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
Kay Thi Win works for the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) as a Regional Coordinator. Before joining to APNSW, she worked as a Senior Program Manager of the Targeted Outreach Program in Population Services International in Myanmar for 9 years. Kay Thi has over 14 years of experiences establishing comprehensive nationwide HIV prevention, care and support services for male, female and transgender sex workers in Asia and Pacific. She is also the founder and technical adviser of AMA, the country-wide Sex Worker Network in Myanmar. Kay Thi volunteers for the Global Network of Sex Workers project (NSWP) as Vice President and Association Women Rights in development (AWID) as a Board Member. Furthermore, she has extensive experience working with HIV stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations, and policy makers in health sectors for key populations.
Hassna Uwingabe Murenzi is a queer feminist and human rights activists. They have been a part of the Rwandan sex workers’ and LGBTIQ movement for the last 12 years. In 2007 they became Vice President in the LGBTIQ organization HOCA (Horizon Community Association), which was part of the successful campaign against the criminalization of LGBTIQ people in the Rwandan penal code. The strengthening of the sex workers’ community and improved coordination between “key population” groups is among the successes during this time. As the Executive Director of FADA (Feminist Action Development Alliance), they were able to create a clear vision for the organization and strengthen the engagement with the sex worker and LBTQ communities. FADA also engages in policy and law advocacy to improve health and livelihoods for sex workers and LBTQ people and combat gender based violence and discrimination. Hassna is Vice Chair in the board of ASWA (African Sex Workers Alliance).