Sherry goes to Cambodia!

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The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) exists to uphold the voice of sex workers globally and connect regional networks advocating for the rights of female, male, and transgender sex workers. NSWP is a membership organization. Our members are local, national or regional sex worker-led organizations and networks across five regions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, North America and the Caribbean. Each region has its representative and I’m proud to represent Asia and the Pacific, together with Tony from China.

I was ecstatic when I was endorsed as the regional representative! The position was not occupied for quite sometime before I was endorsed. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t waiting to be endorsed but when the call was made, I was unsure if I was suitable as I was lacking confidence. Still, I was welcomed on board with lots of good wishes. Part of my responsibility on the Board of Directors is to represent and consult with my whole region, reviewing the Strategic Plan and updating NSWP’s  annual priorities.

 

Global Network of Sex Work Project
Global Network of Sex Work Project

On 25th April I flew into Cambodia to attend a 5 day annual Board Meeting. It was pure excitement as I got to meet Ruth, the is the Global Coordinator of NSWP, whom I met once before in Geneva for the CEDAW shadow report – https://theprojectx.org/2017/12/02/journey-cedaw-sherrys-step-activism/. I also met all the other Board Directors.

Asia Pacific Representative - Sherry
Asia Pacific Representative – Sherry

I was determined to do my best because everyone gave me warm welcomes. Look, I even got a glittery book! I’m a scribbly writer when I sit in for a meetings. Post-its are as important as they help to remind of the things that I need to do or follow-up on.

 

 

Catch up over tea break.
Catch up over a tea break.

I was shy and learning to walk as the representative. There was definitely new stuff that I learned from everyone. My fellow representative for the Asia Pacific is from China, and his name is Tony. We got along well and shared the same point of view. Tony is from Shanghai CSW and MSM Center. Shanghai CSW & MSM Center is an NGO, non-profit organization that focuses on sexuality power and health. They are committed to improving the living environment of disadvantaged people by providing them with better medical and legal services. They work closely with other resources to promote the living environment of these people. Read more of what they do on their website.

 

The existence of NSWP is important for sex worker-led organizations because it provides them with guidance and networking within country, region and globally. With NSWP around, the organizations can learn from one another and exchange different strategies on the common issues faced. The staff of NSWP often send us updates and information that helps expose organizations to opportunities to expand their advocacy work.

I was talking to Mia from Europe, and she shared her experience as a sex worker. Mia shared an apartment with another sex worker. Generally, we can agree that working in a pair will be safer as there is someone to look out for you if anything happens.  However, it is unlikely for it to happen in Singapore as it is against the law to own and operate a brothel. In recent years, police have raided HDB flats as neighbors alerted Singapore Police Force for suspicious of vice activity. Tenants or owners can be fined or imprisoned for living off the earnings of a prostitute and permitting a place to be used as a brothel.

 

Picture perfect of a pretty temple.
Picture perfect of a pretty temple.
I can look at the sky for hours all by my own.
I can look at the sky for hours all by my own.
Old temple but still a gem.
Old temple but still a gem. I gazed in amazement.

On my third day, I finally made some time to go out on own my own. Yes, I was looking forward to adventures alone. Many say that the temple is a must to go! However, as much as it excites me, it’s not worth for me to pay 60+ USD when I only had few hours to spare. They say that the temples are huge, and I won’t be able to cover all within few hours. Instead, I called to make a reservation for something that I always wanted to try! Quad bike. I booked 2 hours with a tour guide. We rode within the village and stop to look at the sunset. It was the greatest evening ever.

 

Smart adorable kids.
Smart adorable kids.

There was something that touched my heart. I was shaken when I saw kids playing along with their friends on the side of the road. They look calm and cheerful. When they saw me riding the bike, at any corner they will never fail to wave hello at me. I wished I can do something to offer them but all that I can do was to stop and take selfies with them. I saw bright futures in their eyes, and I pray that their life ahead will be blessed.

 

 

Board members and staff of NSWP.
Board members and staff of NSWP.

Definitely did not count down to the end of this trip. I truly enjoyed the food and vibe in Cambodia. The last 2 days of the meeting were hectic, but still, I learned a lot from everyone. In the midst of the discussion, there were still moments that made everyone laugh. There were a few decisions that needed to be made and everyone “can live with that”. To name a few moments of inspiration and lessons from this board meeting: I’m more determined as an advocate and now better understand the reasons for different advocacy strategies. I also started thinking of new research ideas and started working on them when I arrived back in Singapore. I left Cambodia feeling accomplished but yet half empty. It is a great pleasure to have met and know all the board members and staff of NSWP.

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Vanessa Ho

Executive Director | [email protected]

Executive Director
[email protected]

Vanessa has been full-time with Project X since 2011, and as a result, has had many opportunities to meet and connect with sex workers in Singapore and around the world. Under her leadership, the organisation has grown from a small group of volunteers to one where there are three paid staff and a team of over 60 volunteers. Correspondingly, she has increased the annual operating budget of the organization five times, and is now recognized as the leading organization that empowers and assists women in the sex industry.

Vanessa has written and spoken extensively about sex work, human trafficking, rape culture, and LGBTQ rights in Singapore. She believes that if people can speak about sex, gender and sexuality in open and in non-judgmental ways, society will become a safer place for everyone.

Vanessa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of Warwick, and a Masters Degree in Gender, Society and Representation from University College London.