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Report on the Ohrid Meeting in Hetérák

(translated from Hungarian)

The participants included sex workers and representatives of organizations promoting sex workers’ rights from 16 countries . When checking in it was already clear that we were about to have a training of relaxed atmosphere with a team of nice, intelligent and funny people. The level of the hotel service further raised our mood.

During the first two days, sex workers from different countries shared their experiences and what they had achieved in terms of sex workers’ rights. We met the Macedonian sponsors, HOPS, STAR, and STAR’s Macedonian newsletter for and about sex workers. (Which inspired us to make our own Haeteras newsletter.)

We envisaged and created SWAN’s newspaper, drew, cut, stuck and colored paper just like children, having fun and laughing while, in fact, working on a very serious issue.
From day 3, the emphasis shifted to the details of human rights and rights abuse in the region, and we discussed SWAN’s opportunities for advocacy in these respects. We also shared experiences of working with a network of lawyers and mapping opportunities. The topic was updating SWAN’s strategy and setting new objectives.

A number of excellent ideas were shared with enlightening discussions and debates, where compromise was always possible. We also touched upon 17 December, discussed strategies and actions taken previously, and envisaged future ones.
Financing and operating NGOs is always very difficult. We could learn a lot from each other in this respect as well. Two working groups were set up, who will try to cooperate and make progress in specific issues.

Participating in the meeting was a fantastic experience. We met a number of interesting people, and spent together ten days like a large family, despite being very different. Different in language, culture, background, yet still so similar. We represent the same cause, and, in the light of our opportunities, we all do our best to ensure that the human rights of sex workers are respected and they can live free of discrimination.

We were told sad stories, absurdities and an infinite list of cases of rights abuse, which, fortunately, are not characteristic of Hungary any more. Still, we felt a strong empathy, as violence against and the abuse of sex workers was not unknown in our country some time ago.

Discovering that there are organizations promoting sex workers’ rights are present almost everywhere, and that they cooperate and form international networks was an extraordinary experience. In the name of all 50 participants, we do hope that all will manage to make an achievement, as it became clear that sex workers are just as sensitive, sophisticated and intelligent people like anyone else. I have never participated at a meeting like this, and no matter how more trainings I’ll have a chance to visit, for me Ohrid will always remain special.