Human Rights and lobbying officer at Sweat
No day is the same for Nosipho Vidima (31), who is the human rights and lobbying officer at the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat). “I can go from having a routine day, then boom — a sex worker is raped or killed or arrested unlawfully.”
In the case of the latter, Vidima has to strategise on interventions with Sweat partners. Then she has to call police stations, communicate with human rights defenders, and assist the sex worker as best as she can, documenting every step, for the larger advocacy plans of the organisation. A sex worker herself, Vidima says she has experienced various human rights violations including rape, physical assault and discrimination at the hands of clients, government institutions, service providers and the community in general. “Sex workers are among the most vulnerable persons in South Africa, mainly because of the laws that push sex work and sex workers into unsafe, unprotected areas to conduct their trade,” she says.
Back in 2012, Vidima saw a sex worker being brutally attacked by police officers, and tried to intervene, videoing the incident with her phone. Shortly thereafter she heard that Sisonke, a sex-worker led organisation, was planning a march to various police stations to protest police harassment and abuse. Vidima joined in, heralding the start of her passionate involvement in fighting for the rights of sex workers. Since then she has served as a sex worker ambassador for TB/HIV Care Durban, a lobbying officer for Sweat (2013 to 2014) and a project site coordinator for the Red Umbrella sex worker programme (2014 to 2015) before rejoining Sweat last year.
Vidima currently coordinates the #SayHerName campaign, which documents the deaths of sex workers in South Africa and works with a team of human rights defenders to ensure that these cases receive attention and are not overlooked.
“Sex work should be decriminalised so that it can be seen as work, so that sex workers can have safe working environments, so that they can mobilise and unionise to fall under the employment and labour laws,” she says. She will not rest until this happens. “My goal is to be part of the decriminalisation campaign until sex work is decriminalised or I die, but I’m here for the fight until the end.”
— Fatima Asmal