Community Empowerment & Transformative Learning among Sex Workers




Benoit, Cecilia
Belle-Isle, Lynne
Michaela, Smith
Phillips, Rachel
Shumka, Leah
Atchison, Chris
Jansson, Mikael
Loppie, Charlotte

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Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research


This bulletin offers findings from a pilot Peer Health Advocates training program, designed with and for sex workers. It aimed to enhance community empowerment to enable sex workers to shape their practices around health promotion and prevention strategies, and to contribute to improving access to health and social services within their communities. Participants enhanced self-esteem and reduced internalized stigma, increased their critical consciousness, acquired new knowledge from participation and control over the training program, strengthened solidarity with other sex workers, and contributed to increased resource mobilisation in the community. This pilot study, the first of its kind in Canada, was a successful proof of concept and built the foundation for a long-term initiative. Other jurisdictions in Canada could adapt similar programs in their area.



sex work, community-based research,


Benoit, C., Belle-Isle, L., Smith, M., Phillips, R., Shumka, L., Atchison, C., Jansson, M., & Loppie, C. (2017). Community Empowerment and Transformative Learning among Sex Workers: From health educators to health advocates. CISUR Bulletin #17, Victoria, BC: University of Victoria.