The Women Workers Forum (WWF) was a collaboration between various organizations involved with the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW). The purpose of the forum was to support women workers in their self-directed learning efforts, to strengthen their political education, and assist their self-organization. The forum highlighted knowledge-production from the workers themselves and shared of this knowledge among different sections of workers. The essence of this meeting helped to build solidarity among women workers from different countries and different areas of work. The first in-person regional meeting of the WWF, which was organized in July 2022 in Bangkok among South East Asia partners, sought to give an opportunity for the partners to know each other’s work and their experiences of collective advocacy for change. It sought to also share with each other skills of documentation and collective work. The meeting consisted of participants from: Thailand – Essan Community Foundation (ECF) with representatives from Maha Sarakham and Surin Provinces, and HomeNet Thailand.
It was a great honor for me to be involved in this event. I was in charge of taking photos (among other tasks). While taking photos I felt a humbling responsibility of capturing every participant and the essence of their work. I enjoyed the vibrant colors each organization and group used with their posters and materials. Their engaging presentations captured the essence of these groups and the variety of backgrounds they came from. Even though I did not speak the various languages of each group – there was an ongoing translation into English, Bahasa, Khmer, and Thai – through observing their speeches and activities it was clear to me I was surrounded by incredibly strong, and hardworking women. I couldn’t help but feel emotional at times: the thought of “this is what I am here for” came to my mind many times during the event. Being among these courageous women, listening to the advocacy they are achieving for themselves and the women back in their hometowns made me feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be amongst them. I had so much to learn from these women and I’m very grateful that I got to take photos and portraits during the event – I feel as if it brought me closer to each of them in a unique way.
One of the most eye-opening experiences from the event was meeting sex workers involved with their respective organizations. Coming into the event, I had a one-sided view of the lives of sex workers. Yet after engaging with these women, through laughter, dances, and conversations, my eyes were opened to the rich lives these women continued to live. I realize how easily our image of sex workers is limited to the work they do to survive. Engaging with these women reminded me there is so much more to their lives beyond their occupations. With one woman, I was very fortunate to have shared a conversation (even though it was mostly through google translate) about her life in and outside of sex work. It is one thing to hear about the struggles and hardships of women who earn a living in sex work, but it is something entirely different to have conversations with the human being behind the label.
Participating in the Women Workers Forum was wonderfully eye-opening, especially to have been involved closely with women who are actively striving for change within their work and communities. I’ve always wanted to work directly with people; to have been a part of this experience enriched my life and gave me direction to the sort of work I would like to be involved with in the future. I want to thank all the participants I met at the forum for sharing their stories and this experience with me, and I wish them a bright future in their lives.
Hola! I’m Jennifer, I'm in my third year at Uvic majoring in Psychology and minoring in Global Development Studies. I will be living in Bangkok, Thailand for six months to work with GAATW, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. I'm very excited and ready to immerse myself in this journey ahead! I'm thrilled to share my experiences (and many photos!) with you humans.