Community-led crisis response systems

Community-led crisis response systems

Community empowerment is the foundation of successful sex worker programmes. Sex workers are best equipped to help each other and to protect and promote sex workers' human rights. Here you can read lessons and best practices from the Hands Off programme on sex worker-led crisis response. And how multi-stakeholder responses -involving influential people from surrounding communities- can contribute to reduced stigma and violence. 

Maud's tips: engage the community

Maud Mogale is programme coordinator for North Star Alliance. She is the driving force behind the crisis response teams that provide care and support to sex workers who face violence. In this video she explains how strenghtened relationships between sex workers and community members lead not only to increased understanding and respect, but also increased feelings of safety for sex workers to access health care settings or report a case to the police. 

Best practice: sex worker-led support

Aidsfonds supported Sisonke, a sex worker-led movement to improve pathways to justice for sex workers. At the heart of Sisonke’s work are seven paralegals, sex workers who provide legal support to their peers. They have worked tirelessly to make sex workers aware of their rights and offer support to sex workers on a scale that was previously unimaginable. Read here how sex workers managed to overthrow the climate of impunity around violence against sex workers by providing support to survivors of violence.

increasing access to justice increasing access to justice

Create a response with multi stakeholders

  1. Identify your champions: include peer educators, community leaders, healthcare professionals and law enforcement in emergency response teams
  2. Ensure there is a diversity of skills present in emergency response teams
  3. Decentralise response systems - response time is quicker and more effective this way
  4. Use communication tools such as Whatsapp groups
  5. Create referral pathways with healthcare and legal services
  6. Set up legal rapid response systems
  7. Document: evidence on human right violations is a strong tool in lobby & advocacy
  8. Set aside funds that can be accessed by the response teams during emergencies

Best practice: involving nearby communities

North Star Alliance provides free health services to sex workers. To respond to stigma and violence targeted at sex workers they set up crisis response teams at their clinic sites. The teams consist of influential community members, such as health care workers, police officers, religious leaders and immigration officers. They provide rappid support to sex workers who experienced violence. Read North Star Alliance's best practice to see how this approach has led to increased safety for the entire community and reduced stigma against sex workers.  



crisis response team crisis response team

What we've learned

Aidsfonds supported the setup of emergency response systems that in-country partners put in place. For these systems to be effective we learned that the following is key:

  1. Sex workers are often first responders in emergencies. By empowering sex workers they better know their rights, claim these rights and better support each other
  2. Local level held-squads provide direct access to local support and are often more effective then national response systems. Helplines and referral systems can benefit from being decentralised
  3. Referral and follow up is challenging. Follow up works best when paralegals or peer educators are responsible for this. Referral systems are most effective when done through multi-stakeholder meetings uses cookies to offer the best website experience possible and to anonymously analyze website behaviour. More information.