SistaazHood is the first Sex worker support group in South Africa that was founded by trans women, is led by trans women sex workers, and focuses its support and advocacy specifically on trans women sex workers. SistaazHood was founded by trans women sex workers who were and are part of the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) based in Cape Town.
SistaazHood was founded, after an initial meeting between Cym van Dyk, Netta Marcus, Gulum Petersen, with the support of Robert Hamblin and He-Jin Kim from Gender DynamiX. Cym van Dyk, had the vision to establish a home or safe space for the trans women sex workers who live in the city center on the streets, under bridges, and near the wall of the Cape Castle. Netta Marcus was known as the symbolic mother of the group of 37 trans sex workers who were mostly homeless. Soon after the initial meeting Leigh Davids, Cherry Lily and Pricilla Ferguson joined and SistaazHood was formed. During their first forming year, to establish what the goals will be, “what are the next steps?” feminist focussed discussions evolved and the group started engaging with critical questions, unpacking oppression and patriarchy in relation to their context. Collectively they produced their short SistaazHood introduction video, the “sistaaz” narrated and Robert filmed and edited. When their introduction video was ready, during one large SWEAT organisational-wide community dialogue discussion SistaazHood shared their introduction. For the first time the other sex workers, cis women and cis men sex workers, and the majority of the staff really realised the different layers and struggles the trans women sex workers deal with, on top of the challenges the other sex workers already experience. Robert and He-Jin continued their ongoing support. Leigh Davids traveled internationally and nationally, extensively furthering the advocacy, both for translate sex workers as well as part of the South African national campaign to decriminalize sex work. Three of the founders, Cym, Leigh and Netta passed away since. Leigh was quoted in many public speeches saying that trans women who are homeless sex workers, most likely HIV+, on average do not get older than 40 and that International studies show transgender women have an average life expectancy of about 30 to 32 years. Leigh was also quoted as saying: “We have no studies in South Africa but since 2011 we have photographed 30 black trans women sex workers for this project. Five of us have died not reaching the age of 40”. Leigh passed away two weeks before her 40th birthday.
SistaazHood continues with its advocacy.