Empower is a women's organization in Thailand offering support to women working in the sex industry.

Empower is a women's organization in Thailand offering support to women working in the sex industry.

Thailand
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
< $1,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Founded in 1985, EMPOWER works with a rights based philosophy aiming to reduce discrimination and prejudice against sex workers. Empower strives to provides an avenue for sex workers to access their basic human rights like decent work, education, good health, access to the law, community, social and political participation.

About You
Organization:
EMPOWER FOUNDATION
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Section 1: About You
First Name

Noi

Last Name

Apisuk

Country

, 2

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

Organization Name

EMPOWER FOUNDATION

Organization Phone

+66 2 5268311

Organization Address

57/60 Tiwanond Road, Nontaburi 11000

Organization Country

, 2

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, 2

Innovation
What makes your idea unique?

Empower began in 1985 as a small project to explore prostitution, sex tourism and issues of exploitation in the sex industry. Empower started in Patpong, the famous red light district of Bangkok. Initially Empower offered English language skills and in return Empower had an opportunity to learn from women how they viewed their work and the surrounding issues.This partnership has strengthened over the years and Empower has become a center of exchange, advocacy and support. Empower recognized the community needs to access to information, tools and also needs to work against the inevitable blaming and discrimination. In addition Empower created an HIV/AIDS information project, Naam Chewit newsletter and resource center, to provide prevention information and also activities to combat fear and discrimination, by emphasis on Living TOGETHER with HIV/ AIDS. Today, EMPOWER has 5 centers in Chiangrai/Mae Sai, Chiangmai, Phuket/Patong, Bangkok/Patpong and Nonthaburi, cover another 10 areas in cities and through networking with local groups in other cities and regions. Every center of EMPOWER has been organized and run by sex workers collectively. Approximately EMPOWER reaches more than 20,000 sex workers each year, and there are more than 500 active members all over the country. Empower is a leading force in many local networks e.g. labor organizations, human rights groups, migrants rights. In HIV/Aids-EMPOWER is an active founding members of Thai NGO Coalition on AIDS (TNCA) in 1990, and served as a first co-secretariat as well as a member of human rights working group of the coalition.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

Empower is a women's organization in Thailand offering support to women working in the sex industry. EMPOWER reaches more than 20,000 sex workers each year, and there are more than 500 active members all over the country.

Empower programs include:

1. Education including school education through the Non-Formal Education System of Ministry of Education and Language and other training, such as law, health, labour and human rights.
2. Health and HIV/AIDS with special focus on Occupational Health
3. Life Skills training such as banking, computer and internet, art, etc…
4. Leadership including organizational development and networking
Community strengthening, building a solid base for sex worker activists to grow and organize
5. Advocacy making sex worker issues understandable, visible and important to policy makers and wider society
6. Documentation and Resource Center about sex work history and up to date situation, human rights, law, sexuality, women’s health and HIV/AIDS, etc… including website development: www.empowerfoundation.org.
7. Art and Culture, using art creation processes to regain self-confidence, social and cultural linkage, community participation and mobilization, public education and social attitude change (i.e: Honey Bee Street Theatre).
8. Sex Workers’ Human Rights Defenders providing counseling, documentation, awareness raising and advocacy on human rights abuses identified by sex workers

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

Society refers to prostitutes as criminals, immoral and source of dangerous disease. They are not a human beings, they should not get any help or social support but must receive punishment by law. For more than 23 years EMPOWER Foundation has been working amid intricate conflicts in society. We try to remove stigmatizing label of “prostitute” and refer only to “people” in sex work. Sex work is not a moral issue, it is not a legal issue, but it is an economic earning and opportunity to work. Prostitution can not be solved by rehabilitation, punishment by law does not encourage dignity… we must respect the equal rights of people no matter difference of races, nationality, beliefs, education, gender… professions. Hence, Empower strives to provides an avenue for sex workers to access their basic human rights like decent work, education, good health, access to the law, community, social and political participation in the moment. At the same time Empower strives to make these basic human rights available to all sex workers as a part of mainstream society by addressing current discrimination and stigma under the law and in society.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. What might prevent that success?

Initially Empower offered English language skills and in return Empower had an opportunity to learn from women how they viewed their work and the surrounding issues. This partnership has strengthened over the years and Empower has become a center of exchange, advocacy and support.

Empower recognized the community needs to access to information, tools and also needs to work against the inevitable blaming and discrimination. In addition Empower created an HIV/AIDS information project, Naam Chewit newsletter and resource center, to provide prevention information and also activities to combat fear and discrimination, by emphasis on Living TOGETHER with HIV/ AIDS.
Empower expanded its program to include a famous street theater called “Honey Bee Special”, which change the public acceptance to the roll of sex workers, allow them to directly interact with audience in entertainment street by using intellectual means. Another art project by EMPOWER for instants; the ‘Labour Sans Frontieres’ from 2003 until today, a public interaction art project, which more than 300 migrant women has been participated in creating a ‘papier-mache’ dolls to represents their dreams. EMPOWER created the ‘Journey of Kumjing’ to bring the dolls to different cities around the world, telling stories of migrants dreams. Today 110 families in 12 countries has adopted the dolls and become active family members to tell stories of Kumjing’s dreams to people in their areas.

By 1990 the initial language/literacy activities had developed to a stage capable of offering Non Formal education qualifications i.e. NFE equivalent to Thai school qualifications. The Ministry of education officially supported the registration of Empower NFE Institute, the first ever school for sex workers in Thailand. “Live to Dream” a health center and refuge for people who need community support and care, until they can restart their lives independently at work or with their family.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

Empower will want to continue its efforts to improve rights and income generation options for sex workers as well as serving their basic human rights.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

Many active sex workers have been invited by policy makers to be part of developing government regulations, policy and law drafting, including legal revision of the prostitution law. Empower plays a significant role in the committee of national aids plan, labor law consultation; social security adviser.

Sustainability
What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?

Yes

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation

Empower has participated in the International Aids Conferences since 1987 and is well respected as an active organization in the HIV/Aids community.

In 1992, Empower is one of the founding members of ICASO (International Council of AIDS Services Organization) and served as a CORE member of APCASO (Asia and Pacific Council of AIDS Services Organization) in Human Rights and HIV/AIDS Sub-Committee, until 1998.

In 1995 The Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) was formed by Empower at the International Conference on Aids in Asia and the Pacific.

In 1996 EMPOWER organized “The First Northern South-East Asian (Mekong) Subregional Exchange on Migrant Populations and HIV/AIDS”, in Chiangmai, supported by APCASO. The exchange forums resulted in the formation of sub-regional network on human rights and hiv/aids.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Empower is supported by donor organizations as well as have some revenue generation activities.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Empower began in 1985 as a small project to explore prostitution, sex tourism and issues of exploitation in the sex industry. Empower started in Patpong, the famous red light district of Bangkok. Initially Empower offered English language skills and in return Empower had an opportunity to learn from women how they viewed their work and the surrounding issues. This partnership has strengthened over the years and Empower has become a center of exchange, advocacy and support.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

Noi and her co-workers in Empower, the women's organization she founded, are working to educate and empower the most abused and exploited women in Thailand, its prostitutes. Empower's first objective is to help these poor, often illiterate outcasts build their self-respect despite society's disrespect and their own often unfortunate pasts.
Noi has developed a series of techniques that enable her to accomplish this difficult task on a large scale. She first works with prostitutes in their own environment in a nonjudgmental way and enlists the help of current and former prostitutes, active members of Empower's staff.

Second, Noi has developed a series of specific programs that enable Empower's staff to have significant impact in the lives of these women. She is providing these women with the gift of literacy, inspiring them to express themselves and removing the barriers of illiteracy. They begin by expressing themselves on audio- tape, listening to the tape and discussing their ideas. Noi then urges the women to type out their ideas, and only after that to write them down. At the end of this process she introduces newspaper reading and discussion.

Another tool Noi and Empower have found useful is the theater. The plays they perform are among Empower's most useful and powerful outreach mechanisms. The plays take them bars and houses of prostitution where Empower staff educate and involve prostitutes in Empower's programs. Developing and giving performances strengthens and builds mutual trust within Empower's staff.

As Noi and her colleagues build these women's self- esteem, they also pursue other big objectives. Noi is responding to the prostitutes' new AIDS-induced desire to find alternative sources of income with extensive training programs and related counseling. She's mounting a rapidly expanding program of health and AIDS education. Noi is helping these women defend themselves against violence and exploitation.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information
ICRW
Does your project address any of the following barriers to women’s technology access and use?

If you checked any of the boxes above, please explain how.

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Does your project involve women in one or more of the following stages of the technology lifecycle? Identification of the problem the technology will solve:

If you checked any of the boxes above, please explain how you will ensure women’s involvement in each relevant phase of the technology lifecycle.

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If women are a focus of your project, how did this focus evolve?

Which type of women will your project reach directly?

In what ways does your project team/leadership involve women?

Has your organization formed any new partnerships in response to this challenge? If so, with what type/s of organization/s?

Has your project leadership had prior experience with the following?