Our Friday at Burnaby campus

26 07 2009

I’ve learned a few lessons too. Following our Tuesday event, when we did our chalk outlines and collected signatures, to thank them who signed our petition for their support, while reminding those who gave us “yes”-es for having at least one spare cellphone, that we will be at Burnaby campus on Friday to collect them. The only person who replied me was so upset that I sent her the email, for breaching her privacy, and that I should take her off the list. Moral of the story: use that “Bcc” option! Apparently by doing that, nobody else who you’re sending your email to, can see the other email address. Oops, I’ve never used that option before, never needed to, and honestly, never knew what it was for. Moral of the story #2:  stop being ignorant and think of other people’s feelings about some random emails. So I’ve done that, when I sent out another email, thanking our supporters from our Friday event.

Second lesson: the bureaucracy thing, as Beatrice have mentioned in the previous post. On Tuesday, we got in trouble for drawing with chalks on the floor, which could’ve been easily cleaned up. And we were almost out of at least $38 if the person in charge had not let us get away with that once. On Friday, being a little bit more “prepared” than Tuesday, we still had a little mishap. Apparently there was another “complaint” for us being at the convo mall, but luckily and thanks to Beatrice, we were able to deal with it. Moral of the story: make sure you get all the licensing you need to do things like this at school.

Third lesson: people can be really egotistical. So you’ve read the story about the “trade” that someone attempted from Beatrice’s post. Two old phones for your newer one!!  Here’s another one: someone offered us $5 for a phone. And of course, we said no, explaining him that the phones were for donations. And he said, well the $5 was a donation, instead of a phone. And again, we had to politely say no to him, and he walked away. Moral of the story: many people don’t really care about what you’re doing, let alone why you’re doing it.

Despite all of the above, our Friday wasn’t so bad. We got a few more people attempting to donate their phones. And we did get more attention from the traffic, though it was a fairly slow Friday. The wind wasn’t helping either, making our giant paper bibs very wrinkled. Not only we had to hold a certain position, we looked dorkier than we thought! We got to bond with some classmates too! Yay! Moral of the story: we managed to have fun after all!



20 07 2009

Following up our plan, we will be hosting a cell phone (and charger) collection and awareness event up at SFU Burnaby campus tomorrow. So if you have old, working cellphones, do bring them tomorrow, Tuesday, July 21st, from 8am – 1 pm. We’re also going to be at SFU convocation mall and around the bus loop, collecting (hopefully) more phones on Friday, July 24th. Time will be morning 9 am -ish to late afternoon.

We’ve also set up a facebook group. Please join and give us your input, comments, supports, anything at all.

DONATE A PHONE (with its charger). SAVE A LIFE.


The costs of emergency calls..

20 07 2009

iphone-unlocking-activationy-w-50504-3From the few solutions that we proposed, we’ve chosen to provide cellphones for sex trade workers, so that they can call 911 if they ever gotten into dangerous situations. And we’ve planned to collect used phones as part of the pilot program. So that we can donate them to organizations that can help us with the program. Now the decision has been made, off we went to find information.

Some time last week, I dropped by some cellphone service providers in the mall to find out what our options are. I thought, a 911 calls only should not cost too much, given they charge me 50 cents every month for what they call “911 Emergency Access Fee”, thought I don’t know what that means. Shouldn’t we all be able to call 911 no matter what, despite locations or a given time of the day, unless the phone is out of battery? Anyway, it costs me 50 cents a month to call 911, maybe it’s a little different for everyone, depending on what providers they are on.

Provider #1: I went to Bell asking about “emergency only phone plans”. Their cheapest plan starts at $15 a month, before taxes.  No system access fees and FREE 911 emergency calling fees. You’ll get a free phone if you signed a  2-year contract. I explained to the representative, that I will not be needing any text messages, or even air time (that’s the minutes we use to make calls), only for 911 calls. And she suggested their Prepaid plan. The lowest plan offered was again $15, but I’ll have to pay for the phone, which costs $75. And the funds expire after 45 days, unless I keep topping it up. And due to the platform they use (CDMA), we can’t just use any phones and pop a SIM card in, we will need to get their phones or compatible phones from the same provider.

Provider #2: Rogers, same question. They use a different platform (GSM) from Bell, that allows us to be more flexible with the phones. We can get any phones that use SIM card, pop a SIM card in, and voila! you can make phone calls right away. It costs $40 for the SIM card and that’s not including any credit. And again, there’s an expiry period attach to it, unless you’re willing to pay for a $100 credit which will be good for a year.

Provider #3: I went to Koodo, another one with CDMA platform. The phone costs at least $75. No contract involved, the lowest monthly plan costs $15. And he said I’ll get FREE 911 calls included too.

Provider #4: Fido. Offers a $10/month prepaid plan if you set up an automatic top-up service, with the phone costs from $65. A 50 cents charge for 911 access fees will be deducted automatically every month.

So 911 calls aren’t free after all. With a cheaper service you’ll have to pay for it. Only with more expensive services you’ll get them for free.  But if compared to the price of lives that we can save, 50 cents is well worth it, isn’t it? And here’s our challenge: to raise money to get us started with the phone plans.

Education, education, education

13 07 2009

We’re proposing the following: early sex and health education at schools. Ensuring that young students understand the consequences of sex and health risks associated with it, when not done safely.
Students also need to be educated how to keep themselves safe and how to keep their friends safe. Especially for female students. In a way that, if they were approached by someone, who can potentially be predators, they know what to do. Or to reject any baits, that may drag them into prostitution.

Most importantly is scenario trainings. I think by providing real-experienced scenarios these students will have better understanding what has happened, what is happening and what can happen in the real world.
Followed with early drug education and how it ties with prostitution.

Another proposed solution is providing basic education and skill training for sex trade workers. We can lobby educational institutions to come up with programs that our cheaper and shorter, even if possible, free. And because Vancouver has many educational institutions, we can gather instructors from those institutions who are willing to be involved in the outreach program.
And we think the best locations for the programs to be held are our own SFU Harbour Center campus or Vancouver Public Library, as they are close enough and very accessible from the downtown Eastside. And of course, form alliances with PACE (Prostitution Alternatives Counseling & Education) Society as well as WISH Drop-In Center to advertise about the programs.

Any thoughts?

Hot on craigslist??

13 07 2009

Okay, I’m not proposing a solution yet, but have you ever browsed craiglist for, say, sex? To be honest, I’ve only found out that craigslist has a section for advertising sex services. I mean, I do use craigslist a lot, for the sole purpose of finding stuff like iPods, cellphones, and a place to rent. That’s it. And a friend pointed out to me. I thought, great, then maybe I can say something about it in this blog. So there I went, a few clicks and there it was. A disclaimer page, asking me to confirm that I was 18 years of age, to understand that the section “may include adult content” and to agree to report any “suspected exploitation of minors”.
Another click to choose a category: w4m (women for male).

Voila! I’m on the ad page. That easy. Even if I weren’t 18, who would have known? And there they were pages after pages of ads. Offering all kinds of sex services, some with high price tag, and most just don’t name their price.
It is not an offense to advertise sex. And when it’s free, who wouldn’t use it, right? And it’s on the internet, which is virtually accessible wherever, whenever. And of course, new more complicated problems come along with the rise of craigslist.

Some argue that craigslist’s ads are actually a better ‘selling’ method than being on the streets. Some women on the ads offer prospect clients to come to their place. Which can make these sex workers safer than being on dark streets. Being in their own space means (hopefully) they know their surroundings, what to do in case of violent behaviour from their clients.

However, just a few days before I also saw a CBC report on the rise of teenage hooker ring, who posted ads on craigslist, offering sex for money. Teenagers? Who were not even 18? Here’s a video.

I think this is a big problem. These teenagers don’t seem to know what they were doing. Then who can protect them if their clients were violent or even predators? We need to act. Fast.

Education for them is definitely a must. Letting them know that there are many men out there, who can potentially be their clients, are violent. Some are simply predators. And there is a risk of STDs. According to the news excerpt, these teens have ‘special price’ for not wearing condoms. Yes, they maybe richer than the other teens, but if they caught serious illnesses like HIV/AIDS, which can lead to deaths, will it be worth it? Educating them AND the parents, so that both parties understand each other and able to help each other. Educate parents to be familiar with the internet, to constantly monitor their teen daughters, to be able to communicate to their children. It does seem like a small start, but hey, where else should it start if not from your own home?

So, is craigslist really a better selling method? Or is it just another means to an end? Read more on this article.

A need for legislation change

12 07 2009

26victimsI’m pretty sure you are familiar with the image on the left. If you weren’t then maybe you’ll recall the name Robert Pickton.
They are the women whom Robert Pickton was charged of murdering. Many people believe after the conviction of Robert Pickton, something would change. Many people believe that something would have been done to protect the sex trade workers, mainly in the downtown Eastside.

Unfortunately, not much has been done. “According to police reports submitted to Statistics Canada, there were 171 sex trade workers were killed between the year of 1991 and 2004, and 45% of the homicides remain unsolved” (ctv.ca). How many were unaccounted for? How many were unreported?

Unfortunately for these women, and other sex trade workers in Canada, the Canadian legal system offers no protection for these women at all. Under the Canadian law, prostitution itself is not illegal, but the activities related to it are. Individuals who were found to sell sex can be charged under the Criminal Code. And it only puts these women in more danger. Reporting bad dates may lead to arrests and imprisonment, therefore many violence victims have chosen to stay silent.

“The lack of legal protection and non-recognition of the work of sex workers is leading to violence and marginalization”. A statement by Jenn Clamen, coordinator of Stella, a Montreal-based support and information group by and for sex workers. I couldn’t agree more. Decriminalizing prostitution will provide more protection for these women. Violence victims will be able to make reports without being treated like criminals. And this has been a continuing struggle for years. Take a look at this article too.

Whom we need to treat like criminals are the violent clients and the predators. Not these women, for trying to survive or to make ends meet. Instead, we need to protect them. They are no different from us. They are our fellow human beings. In fact, they are just like us. They are someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s sister, someone important to someone else.

The business of sex and violence

10 07 2009

When we look at sex trade, we must admit, that it is a business. Whether it is organized or unorganized, from the streets or at higher-end places such as strip clubs or micro-brothels. From our interview with SFU’s own Chris Atchison, we’ve learned a lot about the business models.

On the streets, where survival sex trade workers are usually unorganized and work for their own,  business is simpler. Where there is a buyer, a seller, an agreeable price, sex trade will take place. Unfortunately though, street sex workers are more vulnerable to violence such as physical and verbal abuse, rape, robbery and even murder. Mainly because they sell sex on the streets. And they have little time to decide if it was safe or not to get into a client’s car. They only have little time too, to judge whether or not a client is safe to date.
A lot of times, violence against these women were induced by things as simple as a client refusing to wear a condom. And the chance of violence happening is that when a client take a sex worker to industrial area, where nobody is around.

On the higher levels, where the operations usually go under the radar, business is more complicated, even dysfunctional. With Canadian laws prohibiting brothels or “bawdy houses”, these operations are somewhat invisible. Operations such as escort services, massage parlours, and strip clubs often offer sex as part of the services. And they have legal business permits. Sex trade workers are more organized under these operations, in the sense they they work in a contained space, with people who decides which client to date or who can see a certain client. The other word: pimps. Some establishments though, run more loosely. Where the sex workers can choose whom to date or who is going to date a certain client.
Violence however, happens less in these businesses. Because of the contained space and the women have more time in judging whether or not a client is safe to date.
What makes the business complicated though, is the sex workers would have to pay a big cut to the business owners. Many of them are being economically exploited. And sometimes these women don’t even have access to their pay until a certain time. Then again, the sex trade workers are disadvantaged.

Some women though, are better-off from working through these kinds of businesses. High paying clients are not too difficult to find. And some micro-brothels, are well organized that they have sex workers who actually work by choice.

So can legalizing brothels actually be a good solution to reduce violence?