Healthy Options Project Skopje
Promoting the Rights of Sex Workers in Eastern Europe
They took us to the Bit Pazar police station.
They didn't even give us water or bread. They kept us all night.
I didn't have any air to breathe.
In January 2009 WITNESS conducted a video advocacy training with the Healthy Options Project Skopje (HOPS), an organization advocating for improved economic and health conditions for marginalized communities. The week-long training aimed to increase HOPS’ video production capacity with a particular focus on how to film concealed identity interviews.
In late 2009, HOPS and WITNESS finalized You Must Know About Me: Rights Not Violence for Sex Workers in Macedonia. The video is part of a campaign that targets law enforcement officials to reduce violence committed by police officers against sex workers, and to increase adequate response by the police when violence is committed by a third party.
Since the video’s release, it has been shown in outreach and training sessions with diverse audiences including police authorities and police academy students, members of the judiciary, media, civil society, and the sex worker community. The video was widely distributed throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and screened at advocacy events in South Africa, Thailand, England and eight other countries.
As a result, HOPS reports that there has been:
- A decrease in incidents of police violence against sex workers as a consequence of increased monitoring by relevant police structures and NGOs
- An increase in the reporting of violence and the initiation of court cases by sex workers
- Increased discussion and mobilization to promote the rights of marginalized communities among the general public, including sex workers
- More respectful portrayal of sex workers in Macedonian media
Building on the successes of this partnership, WITNESS continued collaborating with HOPS and the Macedonian Harm Reduction Network’s member organizations on a video campaign to fight stigma and discrimination against a broad range of communities. As the first step, WITNESS traveled to Macedonia in late June 2010 to provide advocacy and post-production training to facilitate establishment of a Macedonian Video Advocacy Network Team. The team served as a focal point in developing and implementing video advocacy strategies aimed at challenging a newly adopted Macedonian Anti-Discrimination Law, galvanizing civil society and mobilizing affected communities to demand legal and policy amendments.