Empower Foundation

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Location

Chiang Mai
Thailand
Contact email: 
noi@empowerfoundation.org
Who do you work with?: 
Empower works with sex workers in Thailand
How are sex workers involved in your organisation?: 
Sex workers make up most of the leadership of Empower and fill key positions. In addition sex workers regularly critique, suggest and guide Empower's activities and advocacy.
Which of NSWP priority areas does your organisation work on?: 
Oppose the criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work and support its recognition as work
Speak out about violence against sex workers, including violence from police, institutions, clients, and intimate partners, while challenging the myth that sex work is inherently gender-based violence
Oppose human rights abuses, including coercive programming, mandatory testing, raids and forced rehabilitation
Challenge stigma and discrimination against sex workers, their families and partners, and others involved in sex work
Advocate for the economic empowerment and social inclusion of sex workers as sex workers
What are the two main challenges that the sex workers you work with face: 
Sex work is criminalised in Thailand. This provides opportunities for others to exploit this criminalisation e.g. extortion by corrupt police and other authorities, non-compliance with labour laws by employers, access to funding by other NGO's in the name of 'helping'. Sex workers work and live on top of a mountain of laws. In addition the State neglects the rights of sex workers usually providing persecution but not protection under the law. The stigma attached to sex work is a major issue for all sex workers and we have to bear the added stigma of being a 'criminal'.
Describe other areas of your work: 
Education: We provide education for society about human rights, justice and sex work from our collective experience. In addition we provide sex workers with access to education e.g. literacy, languages, school qualifications, skills. Health: We help teach society and health providers about good practises. Sex workers also share women's health knowledge and referrals with each other. Empower's main health projects concentrate on Occupation Health and Safety e.g. Can Do Bar - our working model of safe fair sex work. Community: Empower is part of and central to the sex worker community. We use our space to celebrate, mourn, play, eat and organise together. Advocacy: We use art and performance to strengthen our advocacy.