Supporting Workers' Autonomy Project Yukon (SWAPY) was born from 20+ years of learning about poverty, homelessness, substance use, community building, and increasing safety in the Yukon. In this work it was identified there is a community need to engage with people with experiences of trading sex or who have experienced sexualized exploitation in the Yukon. Thus, SWAPY was created with the aims to engage peers to understand and effectively respond to their needs, to research and support the implementation of promising practices, develop policy recommendations and work to reduce social stigma to increase safety and options for people with lived experiences of trading sex and for those who have experienced sexualized exploitation.
SWAPY is a 5 year project that has a two-pronged approach to working with people with lived experiences of sex work, sexualized exploitation or human trafficking (peers). Our peer-led support network provides front-line support to peers to connect, heal and build safety networks in an informal environment. Our peer advisory group, project work and community of practice works with sex workers and people who have experienced sexualized exploitation/human trafficking and community agencies to respond effectively to the needs of peers through an iterative process of implementation and evaluation, with feedback from peers and community agencies. Our goals are to increase options for people who work in the sex trade industry or have experienced exploitation/trafficking; to address stigma; to amplify, support and learn from peer voices; to implement practices, programs and policies that are more accessible, safer, and effective for supporting peers; to support social service providers in their ongoing work to be allies; and to advocate for sex work law reform to reduce harm against people who work in the sex industry and people who have experienced exploitation/trafficking.
It is critical to note that sex work and exploitation/trafficking are often conflated, which has far reaching impacts on policies and services which cause harm to those engaging in sex work, which is consensual (vs. exploitation, which is not consensual). Part of our work aims to counter these misconceptions and increase safety and options for peers.
The project is centred on: decriminalization & destigmatization; a decolonial, feminist lens; a rights and labour based approach
Our project has been generously funded by the Government of Canada - Women and Gender Equality and the Yukon Government - Women and Gender Equity Directorate, Health & Social Services & Crime Prevention Victim Services Trust Fund.