Who are the people behind SWOP’s advocacy? Each month SWOP USA highlights a person creating change in sex worker communities. Knowing how people come to the movement for change and meeting them on a personal level will help more advocates step forward. Don’t hesitate, join the struggle for rights! This month we highlight Cris Sardina, a SWOP USA Board member and co-coordinator of Desiree Alliance.
SWOP USA: Can you tell us a little more about your background as an activist for sex workers’ rights?
Cris: Someone sent me an email for the 2006 Desiree Conference. I applied for a scholarship and found it to be life changing for me as an activist. I co-founded a nonprofit for women (ex) incarcerates in 2004 called the Women’s ReEntry Network (WREN). WREN is run by women ex-felons for women (ex) felons and is the only organization I believe, that its membership requires that you have a criminal background. I went back to college at 40 and although I became educated and have a Master’s degree in Social Justice, I found it more difficult to obtain employment due to barriers that prevented me from making a viable living. I found this highly frustrating, so along with another woman who saw a need to assist women (ex) felons navigate the systems of going legit, we formed WREN. So, when I went to the 2006 conference, I felt like I had found my niche in the sex workers movement and allied with Desiree Alliance. Because sex workers are stigmatized and often ostracized, I felt that as a former sex worker, I had a better understanding than most of what the movement meant.
SWOP USA: What motivated you to join the SWOP USA board of directors?
Cris: I feel I have a lot to offer and I liked the structure of SWOP. I’m still finding my way as a board member.
SWOP USA: You are one of the co-coordinators of the Desiree Alliance. Can you tell us more about your work there and the other new leaders at Desiree?
Cris: Desiree is going in an entirely different direction than before- complete social justice. Sharmus Outlaw (who co-coordinates Desiree Alliance with me) and I have been the best of friends since the 2006 Desiree Alliance conference so she and I share common goals on how we would like to lead the organization. It hasn’t been an easy task restructuring an organization but for the most part, we have a lot of support to make the changes needed.
SWOP USA: What key actions do you think people can take now to support sex workers rights in the United States?
Cris: I believe in educating people of what a sex worker’s organization actually is and what we do. Many, many people are ignorant of what the movement really means. I feel that we need to come straight out of the closet and not be ashamed of what we do. So many members are involved politically and I really feel we need to be heard by the very movers and shakers that make these inane laws repressing civil rights, human rights, and labor rights. I think we are heading in the right direction but I would like to see more involvement with sex workers that have little or no voice.