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„You Are Not Alone, Together We Are Stronger”

The Ohrid network meeting was preceded by an activists’ meeting. 18 sex worker activists turned the meeting room into an art workshop and a cafeteria to discuss issues and personal experience around sex work in their countries.

In September 2009 SWAN’s third network meeting in Ohrid was preceded by a meeting of 18 sex worker activists from Eastern and Central Europe and Central Asia. They gathered to participate in an advocacy training and to get to know each other better before the “bigger” meeting started. This training involved not only local sex workers from different parts of the country, but also hosted 13 sex workers from other countries of SWAN region. The language gap did not stop or discourage the participants from sharing their positive experience and ideas.

ICRSE Coordinator and SWAN trainer Petra Timmermans, together with the editor of Macedonian community newsletter STAR shared their experience in advocacy and in developing newsletters for communities. The activists discussed difficulties of finding funds for publication and distribution, but also shared their own tips on involving colleagues and partners in the preparation of articles and images. It was also stressed how important it is to have a medium not limited or strained by censorship.

The second day of the Advocacy training was fully dedicated to creating a joint issue of a newsletter prepared by sex workers from 8 countries of the region and addressed to their respective communities, telling them their own stories and opinions. The articles and slogans were written in their own languages. The layout was discussed collectively. Also, a decision was made to translate all articles into English and Russian and possibly into Macedonian, so that this issue could reach a bigger group of sex workers in the SWAN region. What has not been decided yet is the title of the Newsletter! The SWAN Project coordinator took the liberty of titling it TEMPORARILY „You Are Not Alone, Together We Are Stronger” (download the newsletter in English here).

Such trainings became a regular practice for SWAN in cooperation with ICRSE (www.sexworkeurope.org). The previous training gave birth to the Macedonian community newsletter STAR. This year advocacy trainings took place in two cities in Ukraine and in Ohrid, Macedonia and it gave birth to the first community newsletter in Hungary called Hetérák (Haeteras).