Start A New Chapter
We’d love to have you join the Sex Workers Outreach Project network!
SWOP Chapters take on a variety of projects to promote the rights of sex workers. Click on the tabs below to learn more about what SWOP chapters do and the process of becoming a chapter!
What Types of Things Do Chapters Do?
Public Education– Chapters give lectures at local universities, develop and present trainings at conferences and social service agencies, and create and distribute resources to help educate the public and reduce individual and institutional violence against Sex Workers.
Awareness—Chapters hold public events on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Trans Day of Remembrance, and Sex Worker Rights Day, organize marches and protests, engage in media advocacy and more to help raise awareness of issues of violence, stigma and discrimination in Sex Worker communities.
Advocacy—Chapters advocate on behalf of sex workers and against institutional policies, practices, and laws that increase violence and stigma against our communities.
Empowerment and Leadership Development —Chapters support the development of new leaders through retreats, trainings, and education on rights, community organizing, and intersectional social justice frameworks.
Peer Support—Chapters create peer-led programming to support sex workers. They operate warm-lines and bad date lists, conduct online and street-based outreach, hold workshops, and develop informational resources for community members.
ALL chapters are required to:
1.) Agree with our Mission Statement
2.) Follow our agreements.
3.) Be ‘reachable’ as a chapter–this means that if someone wants to get involved , they can find your chapter, contact your chapter, and receive a response from your chapter.
4.) [Once established] Do something to recognize the following 4 events:
* March 3rd, International Sex Worker Rights Day
* Your local LGBTIQQ Pride (if you have one)
* Nov 20th, Transgender Day of Remembrance
* December 17th, International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers.
What Does a Chapter Look Like, From the Very Beginning? Some Examples…
Starting with Sex Worker Support:
A few sex workers start organizing a monthly brunch for current and former sex workers; they spread the word via message boards, by emailing adult ads, and emailing organizations that might work with sex workers. They create a listserv where sex workers can communicate about issues. More folks get involved, and decide to create a ‘review site’ for doctors and therapists to hold systems accountable. After it becomes clear that several city clinics are shaming sex workers, they start giving trainings, and they publish a report with accounts of shaming by nurses and doctors.
Starting with Outreach:
Former sex workers and allies start going to a stroll with condoms, snacks, and safer sex supplies every other Tuesday. After they build trust, they invite street-based sex workers to dinner. The community asks for a regular place where they can get warm, get hot food, and support each other around changes they want to make. A local homeless shelter offers the outreach organizers a conference room for weekly drop-in hours and meetings. The organizers let street-based sex workers set the topics, and integrate processing of experiences with leadership development and education about legal rights, social justice, self-care, harm reduction, and options. After 6 months, the group decides that employment discrimination is the biggest issue they face. The lead organizers and group members then work with local graphic designers and artists to create a report about discrimination and employment, hold a press conference, and present the report at HR conferences.
Starting With Art:
Several artists in a city’s art district meet and learn that they are all current and former sex workers. They decide they want to organize an exhibition or festival that focuses on sex work. They decide on a week-long site-specific festival, and they recruit other local sex worker artists to help organize and submit art through newspaper ads, flyers, and posts on art-specific message boards. At the exhibition, they sign people up for a mailing list, and learn that a lot of non-artist sex workers want to get involved in organizing. They start holding groups that teach social justice and community organizing skills and concepts through the use of art. They also invite non-artists to run ‘teams’ focused on research, peer support, and policy advocacy. Eventually, the chapter moves to bi-weekly public meetings for team leaders to share activities, ideas, and lessons learned, and team leaders and members organize and carry out events individually.
Start with an Event:
Several current and former sex workers are organizers with Slutwalk. They learn about December 17th, and they decide to hold a march and vigil. At the vigil, they collect names for a mailing list and get feedback from social service providers, economic justice activists, and sex workers that there is a need for sex worker-centric advocacy. The organizers schedule a meeting with folks who expressed interest in starting a chapter to discuss ideas and how to move forward. They then schedule a planning retreat, apply for starter funding from SWOP USA, and email their contacts and invite them to the retreat. At the retreat, they decide they want to have monthly organizing meetings and start a campaign against “prostitution-free” zones. They also form a one-year and five-year plan, They decide that they need a person to handle social media and create a website, someone to organize marches and actions, someone to manage communications and press releases, and someone to organize meetings with stakeholders. Attendees sign up for roles. At monthly meetings, folks check in on tasks, establish new tasks, and adapt their campaign to changes. After a few months, they start getting emails from current and former sex workers who want to do other projects, like monthly peer support and trainings.
At meetings, the organizers invite individuals who propose activities to present their ideas, and they vote on ideas. After a year of work, the city council strikes down prostitution-free zone ordinances, and the chapter has monthly peer support brunches with growing attendance. The organizers hold the second annual retreat, and they decide to hold a half-day meeting with sex workers, non-profit workers, and activists in the area to determine the next central campaign.