Stichting Maxi Linder Association Founded in Suriname

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Stichting Maxi Linder Association (SMLA) was founded in October 1994. The organisation fights for the rights and health of sex workers in Suriname. Their approach includes providing services, conducting research, and media awareness campaigns.

The organisation chose the name Maxi Linder, after Suriname’s most famous sex worker. Maxi Linder was the country’s first sex work labour organiser. She lived from 1902-1981.

SMLA was founded during the AIDS crisis. Sex workers had been labeled “vectors of disease,” and funding became available to meet their health needs. SMLA has dedicated itself to reducing stigma against sex workers in Suriname.

One project SMLA has undertaken is the running of a community garden. In 1998, SMLA obtained land from the government on which sex workers could grow their own vegetables. The vegetables could be for their own consumption or for sale. The organisation also provides a number of other income-generating activities for sex workers.

SMLA employs sex workers as peers, outreach workers, and researchers. The organisation has participated in many international research projects focused on sex work in the Caribbean.

While the organisation originally started to only serve the needs of Afro-Surinamese women, it has expanded to include all sex workers. This expansion includes transgender and male sex workers of all races. The organisation provides support for sex workers without pushing workers to exit the industry.

More information on Stichting Maxi Linder Association can be found in Sexing the Caribbean by Kamala Kempadoo (2004), and in this briefing.