People from MASH’s community gathered at Castlefield Viaduct park this week to mark International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (Sunday 17th December) by planting a memorial tree for those who have been murdered and had their lives affected by violence.
The idea to plant a tree as a powerful and lasting to legacy to sex workers who have died as a result of violence came from members of Sue’s Space, a community of women with lived experience who help to shape MASH’s services and use their voices to influence positive change more widely.
C, a representative of Sue’s Space said; “International Day of End Violence Against Sex Workers is a really important day and one that often does not get the respect and attention it deserves.
“I’d like to highlight the everyday abuse and violence that sex workers deal with. We experience it in different forms to different degrees and in a variety of settings. The threat of violence, and particularly sexual violence, is a normalised and minimised occupational hazard for sex workers.
“We also need to remember that sex workers deal with violence and abuse all the time, and we shouldn’t have to.
“Many of us are forever grieving the loss of friends and loved ones who have been killed as a result of hate and violence towards sex workers. We grieve as a wider community too and on this day we also gather together in hope for a future free of violence and stigma for all sex workers.
“Castlefield Viaduct has become a place of special significance for women at MASH over the past year. At this park in the sky, right in the heart of Manchester, women have been welcomed by the team each week to spend time in nature and fresh air and get their hands dirty with gardening and growing.
“It felt like a natural step to create a corner of the park for us to plant our memorial tree. We have somewhere to visit regularly to remember those we have lost and can witness our tree grow and mature. It is also a visible and lasting memorial that will raise awareness of sex workers and our rights to live in safety and freedom.”
The mountain ash tree known as ‘Autumn Fire’ was planted with the support of Nancy Scheerhout, gardener at Castlefield Viaduct.
Louise Sandwith, frontline manager at MASH, added; “International Day to End Violence against sex workers is a difficult and really important day. It is an absolute tragedy those who sex work are still not safe and that so many people have had their lives taken from them due to violence.
“On a really difficult and poignant day, this felt like a positive way for us all to come together and plant a tree of hope.
“This tree will continue to be a memorial and a place of solace for many and we are so pleased that Castlefield Viaduct have been so supportive in making this happen.”