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.

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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.

swopchiEmpowerment 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:

spowphxsmall1.) 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.

-Nonprofit & activist training

-Networking with other Chapters and our diverse pool of community activists from across the country

-Ability to use SWOP-USA as a fiscal sponsor in applying for funding

-Access to SWOP-USA’s funding opportunities (which help individuals attend conferences, for chapters to hold community events, develop chapter infrastructure, and more!)

-Utilize our growing database of toolkits designed to support your work

-Consultation from SWOP staff and volunteers on local, national, and international projects

Congratulations! You want to start a chapter, and we want new and thriving chapters. If you are ready to take on the responsibility of starting a chapter and agree with our values, then you will want to set up a consultation with our Chapter Coordinator so we can learn more about each other and you can learn about the process. Please be aware that starting a chapter takes time and is nothing to rush into.

You can send an email to the Chapter Coordinator at chaptercoordinator@swopusa.org asking to start the process of becoming a chapter (include where you are located!).

While you wait to start the process, you may want to do some reading. You can check out:

* Emi Koyama’s Service, rights, justice: Envisioning “justice” approach to empowering people in the sex trade

*How SWOP-USA understands violence and community-led anti-violence work – On Fighting Violence

Thank you for your interest and we look forward to chatting!

You might be curious about what it means to start a SWOP Chapter. Will I still have time for my day jobs, my family, or for my night jobs? Will I be outed as a current or former sex worker if I start a chapter? What will I do as a Chapter? These are very valid questions, and we hope to offer a little guidance in this section on what is actually expected of you if you start a Chapter.

The purpose of a Chapter is to provide a space (literally or metaphorically) for sex workers in your city or area to come together. Our collective mission is to promote the fundamental human rights of people involved in the sex trade and their communities, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy. To fulfill our mission, we require SWOP leaders, including chapter leaders, to be open and receptive to listening to other current and former sex workers. We aim to create a culture that promotes learning from our collective experiences in this struggle and respecting each other’s experiences, ideas, and perspectives. Most importantly, we ask leaders to be open and responsive to criticism. There are times that you or your chapter may do things that may intentionally or unintentionally be oppressive; things that make participation in your chapter or leadership uncomfortable, unsafe, or inaccessible to people who are often marginalized: people of color, low-income individuals, trans and gender-nonconforming individuals, drug users, single parents, or individuals with mental health or physical disabilities among many other socially marginalized communities. Anti-racism and anti-oppression (AR/AO) is a core value of SWOP’s work. In joining our network, we ask all Chapters be open to learning and growing in this area.

With that said, starting a Chapter can be a very empowering, fulfilling, educational… and sometimes frustrating experience. If you are starting a Chapter “from scratch,” you should expect the on-boarding process to last several months. This helps us get you & other leaders properly trained for the challenges of running a chapter and equipped with the appropriate infrastructure, from a website to organizational plan. While you won’t be working 9-5 everyday on this, starting a chapter is still a serious commitment and something you shouldn’t just jump into without serious reflection.

It should also be noted that one does not have to be an active sex worker in order to be involved in SWOP. If you need to keep public anonymity about your past or current working status, we are perfectly fine with that! Nevertheless, we STRONGLY encourage Chapters to be lead by current or former sex workers. If you are an ally connected to sex workers (such as someone who works in the sex industry as a manager, bookkeeper, sex shop employee, etc.), we ask that the primary efforts of the Chapter be community outreach and leadership development until a sex worker in your locality is willing and prepared to be the primary decision maker for the Chapter. We are proud to say that allies have a very important role in SWOP, and that role is to support sex worker leadership and the leadership those most impacted by violence and stigma.

 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.swopphx4 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, fDec 17th photolyers, 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.

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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.

Feel free to contact us via email with any questions you may have about this process: chaptercoordinator@swopusa.org

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.