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SWAN marketplace booth

By Lubica Tornosziova, Odyseus, Slovakia

During the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, SWAN ran a marketplace booth in the Global Village. Global Village was a space where everybody could go in, without needing special permission or badges. This meant that our booth was accessible not only to conference participants but also to the general public.

Our booth was predominately a contact point, as people constantly passed through the corridor where the booth was situated. Some of them just looked around and they didn’t want to be distracted. Many more people came to us and asked who we are, what we are doing and what kind of materials we were offering. Our main activity was providing information about SWAN and/or about sex work in general: we distributed leaflets about SWAN itself an about SWAN members but also set up a game called “Bust the Myth”. The principle behind the game was to get across some very basic information in a dynamic and exciting way. We stuck balloons on the wall and posted myths and preconceptions about sex work and sex workers on them. Inside the balloons were notes that explained why the myth was misguided, misinformed or just simply wrong. People who chose to play could choose to bust one or more myth-balloons and set the truth free. Once they read the truth, we spoke to them about it, explained if necessary or asked for their opinion or experience.

Another very important part of the booth activities was fundraising for member organizations and for SWAN. We all had various materials for sale: t-shirts, videos, books, pins, handcrafts, umbrellas, bags, posters and postcards. We also had various items to give away to delegates as basic reference material for those who were interested in the sex work activism that SWAN and member-organizations were doing in the region.

From a fundraising standpoint, it is questionable whether the activity was as successful as we had hoped. In the Global Village, there were a lot of marketplace booths with different wonderful stuff on sale. Maybe in the future, I would recommend selling small and cheap products as fundraising items which people could buy for a maximum of 5 euros.

Another important task that happened at the booth was to established contact with important persons, stakeholders, journalists, donors, potential partners etc. This was mostly a task for Aliya, the SWAN coordinator, but when she wasn’t in the booth we tried to do it our best. We talked with visitors, received and gave out our business cards.

We wanted to make our “booth full of life”. We also danced, sung, took a lot of photos, participated in demonstrations… and everything was done just because we wanted to make SWAN visible and to show that sex workers are an important part of the society.

I recon, that every one of us, we really had a great time and we did our best. I also believe that for the next such big event, there will be more SWAN members involved in preparation and realization of SWAN activities.

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