Message from our Executive Director

Embrace Dignity, like many other NGOs, currently finds itself in the middle of a worldwide health crisis that requires organisations to manage change and also draw on hope and the opportunities that has been unveiled by this crisis. 

When we started the year, we had no idea of the looming crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted on all of us globally. We have had to adapt our plans in response to the new conditions of working remotely and to ensure that operations continue. 

For us, this is a time of transition and change. As the founders of Embrace Dignity, Jeremy Routledge and I have taken the decision to retire and exit an organisation that we established and nurtured over many years. Embrace Dignity is an expression of our love for our fellow South Africans made tangible.

In 2017, the South African Law Reform Commission’s (SALRC) Final Report (Project 107) on Adult Prostitution was published. Click here to read more about the history of the SALRC Report. The Report proposes two draft bills: Partial Decriminalisation (where only those selling sex are decriminalised) and Total Criminalisation (the status quo in South Africa under prohibition).

Despite strong opposition calling for the total decriminalisation of ‘sex work’ as they call it, the international trend is towards the Abolitionist Equality Law, which targets the demand by criminalising the purchase of sex while those selling sex are decriminalised and supported to exit. We are proud to be driving efforts to see the passing of this law.

We are also delighted to see that government is listening to the calls to end all forms of gender-based violence, of which the system of prostitution is one of its worst forms. It has been shown beyond any doubt that the demand for paid sex drives sex trafficking. Our efforts to end sex trafficking will not succeed if we do not remove one of its key drivers – the system of prostitution.

All these efforts will continue under the incoming leadership. In January 2020, the Embrace Dignity Board appointed Advocate Phumla Dwane-Alpman as the Executive Director Designate. Having joined Embrace Dignity as a Board member in June 2019, Dwane-Alpman served as the Chairperson of the Board for six months before becoming the Executive Director Designate. She brings her much-needed legal mind and expertise to ED at this critical stage when government is finally on the road to amending the law on adult prostitution.

Sqhelo Tom was appointed as Chief Operations Officer in January 2020 and has proved to be a great asset for Embrace Dignity in his management of operations, finance and human resources, and in his role as Board Secretary. Ursula Kotelana was also appointed this year as our Parliamentary Liaison Officer to boost our work and engagement with parliament.

We have strengthened our Board with demographically representative members who bring a diverse set of skills to Embrace Dignity and originate from various regions in our country. The Board is led by our newly elected chairperson, Linda Nodada.

Embrace Dignity has also served as the incubation organisation for Kwanele (meaning “enough”), a movement of survivors of the sex trade, which was founded by Mickey Meji in 2017. Kwanele has brought an important voice to the public debate on the system of prostitution from the lived experiences of prostituted women from various regions in South Africa. Kwanele is currently restructuring itself and has established an interim steering committee to lead that process and prepare for our Annual General Meeting in June 2020.

We are also excited to announce the launch of the Kwanele Survivors Speak to provide an authentic voice from the trenches of the abolitionist movement. Hilda Tlou and Babalwa Puthumo launches the series in this issue of our newsletter. I invite you to give us feedback on the series by engaging with Kwanele National Coordinator, Thuli Mbete.

Last year, Embrace Dignity and Kwanele launched the Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution in Africa (CAPA) Charter. The ultimate goal of CAPA is to abolish the system of prostitution by advocating for the adoption, successful enactment and enforcement of the Abolitionist Equality Law in African countries. In closing, I’d like to invite you to join this growing movement by signing the charter online and helping us promote the adoption of this law.

Best wishes

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge
Executive Director