Mama Cash grantee Empower Chiang Mai reflects on the ingredients for impact
Mama Cash’s grantee partners are doing amazing work for women, girls, and trans people in their communities and around the world. In an eleven part series, we will share some of these inspiring stories of change. This is the story of Empower Chiang Mai.
Empower Chiang Mai is part of Empower Foundation, a sex worker organisation established in 1985 to ensure that women sex workers enjoy safe and fair working conditions. Founded and led by sex workers, Empower challenges the stigma and negative stereotyping of sex workers in Thai society, and engages in national level advocacy. The group received its first grant from Mama Cash in 2009.
An estimated 300,000 people work as sex workers in Thailand. Sex work is a significant source of income for the country: it has been estimated that $300 million is transferred annually to rural families by women working in the sex sector in urban areas, a sum that in many cases exceeds the budgets of government-funded development programmes. Despite its importance for the Thai economy and for employment, sex work is illegal and not recognised as legitimate work. Corrupt authorities and police exploit and misuse the law to extort sex workers, collect bribes, and abuse sex workers’ rights.