Sex Workers' Action Network of Waterloo Region

Who do you work with?

SWAN Waterloo is a grassroots organization that is by and for sex workers. We provide different programs to support the community and strive to work with sex workers who are queer, transgender, Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC), street-based, HIV-positive, disabled, neurodivergent, poor, and those who use drugs. We operate in a model that embodies a love ethic for members and the community of Waterloo Region.

How are sex workers involved in your organisation?

SWAN Waterloo is led by sex workers from different walks of life. Each has equal voting rights and helps to provide guidance for the programs that SWAN creates. We encourage leadership of those who marginalized beyond just their sex work and have re-developed our values in 2022 to actively stand against racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, ageism, and sexism.

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
Critique the trafficking paradigm that conflates representations of sex work, migration, and mobility
Advocate for universal access to health services, including primary health care, HIV and sexual and reproductive health services
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

In Waterloo region, sex workers face a variety of obstacles. Stigma is pervasive, especially for street-involved trans and BIPOC workers. There is a larger threat of violence to sex workers among these demographics. We also see huge struggles in sex workers ability to obtain secular employment or housing.

Describe other areas of your work

SWAN Waterloo provides Sex Worker Welcome training to businesses and organisations to help de-stigmatize their understanding of sex work. A major part of this is demystifying the differences between sex work and trafficking while acknowledging the exploitation of wage labour under capitalism. We have a drop-in program that is run by and for sex workers, a care package program that specifically supports street-based workers, and are currently working on developing a mutual aid fund.