8th Mar 2019

International Women's Day 2019 #BalanceForBetter

Hear from Bright Futures, beneficiaries of the Women's Fund at the Community Foundation
Bright Futures, based in South Shields, work with women from across the North East

A sex work project delivered by Bright Futures in South Tyneside is supporting vulnerable women in the sex industry to stay safe, thanks to funding from the Women’s Fund which celebrates 20 years at the Community Foundation this International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day 2019 is shining a light on #BalanceForBetter, calling for a more gender-balanced world. It is estimated that 1,468 women are involved in sex work in the North East and Cumbria, compared to only 221 men. Unlike most routine jobs, rape and violence is a constant threat for sex workers, meaning the imbalance is putting vulnerable women’s lives at risk.

A grant of £4,800 from the Women’s Fund has enabled Bright Futures to create a women-only volunteer network of sex workers and non-sex workers to share ideas on how to create a safer working environment and support other vulnerable women in our society.

Whilst prostitution in the UK is legal, it is unregulated and unsafe with many illegal activities taking place such as soliciting sex, kerb crawling, brothel-keeping, and sexual exploitation such as survival sex. In the North East and Cumbria, nearly 1,700 people work in the sex industry with a staggering 48% involved in survival sex, having sex for essential resources such as accommodation, food, drugs and alcohol or cigarettes.

Helen Bowman (left), Co-Founder of Bright Futures

Helen Bowman, Co-Founder of Bright Futures said:

“We believe that more needs to be done to help vulnerable women in our society. At Bright Futures there is help and support out there that isn’t police-led. It’s something different. We’re not asking people to disclose information but to put things in place to safeguard other people and ultimately help people to move on with their own lives in a more healthy and safe way.”

The project embodies the spirit of International Women’s Day by providing a collective effort to tackle gender imbalance.

Bright Futures is supported by the Women’s Fund at the Community Foundation, a collaborative way for women to give to women-only causes in North East England.

Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once said:

"The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."

Gill Lowing, Senior Philanthropy Advisor at the Community Foundation interviews a former sex worker and beneficiary of the project

Sally Young, Chair of the Women’s Fund and Chief Executive of Newcastle CVS is calling on more women with an interests in women’s rights to support the Funds:

 “The Women’s Fund is a great way of giving to tackle women’s issues. It can support new approaches and methods to tackle issues at organisations that people trust. The voluntary sector is not the state, health service, local council or the police, but a network of local organisations such as Bright Futures, based in the heart of our communities.

“If you’re passionate about women-only issues then make a donation today and join our network of women giving to other women, and help the Women’s Fund continue to grow and support new women-only initiatives across the North East.”

The Women’s Fund was established in 1999 by Dame Margaret Barbour, with an initial donation of £250,000 from the Barbour Trust. Dame Margaret had a vision that the Fund would be a collective endeavour enabling women to support other women in our region. The good work supported by the Fund is needed more than ever and we’d welcome your support.  Since the Fund was established many local women have donated thousands of pounds to it through being regular donors, making one-off donations and from the proceeds of events.

For more information about the Women’s Fund visit https://www.communityfoundation.org.uk/givingandphilanthropy/collective-giving/womens-fund/

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