MOVE Forward

Career development for Sex Workers 2009 - 2012
(closed project)

MOVE Forward Project
The MOVE Forward Project (2009-2012) was set up to examine innovative strategies to empower sex workers in developing countries. Worldwide, sex work is often criminalized and surrounded by stigma and discrimination. This places sex workers in a marginalized position, which makes them more vulnerable to STIs, HIV and different forms of exploitation. Through the MOVE Forward Project, Soa Aids Nederland conducted research and set up pilot projects in Macedonia, Uganda, Vietnam and Egypt. The main aim of the MOVE Forward project was to improve career opportunities for sex workers, who voluntarily wanted to alter their career. This economic empowerment is a means to improve their health, safety and well-being of sex worker.

MOVE Forward has led to a scaling up of the strategies in the Stepping Up, Stepping Out project (2012-2015). Soa Aids Nederland works together with ICCO Cooperation and local partners in 11 countries.

Read more about — SUSO

Project set-up

  • The project started with a needs assessment, which proved to be a meaningful empowerment strategy in itself. Sex workers stated that they felt more respected because they were asked about their desires and goals for the future.
  • Soa Aids Nederland cooperated with seven local partners in the four countries, ranging from sex worker rights advocates (WONETHA in Uganda) to local government organizations (PAC in Vietnam), and from international organizations like UNFPA and UNAIDS to local NGOs (HOPS in Macedonia).
  • Different strategies were used in different regions based on the outcomes of the needs assessment as well as the strengths of the local partners.


  • Self-help organizations: capacity-building in terms of (financial) management and advocacy.
  • Tailored training: vocational, language and life skills courses, tailored to the target group.
  • Drop-in centres: providing a safe haven, information and social activities.
  • Community-building: caregiver strategies, and social activities.
  • Peer educators: training sex workers to provide information and advice to others.
  • Small business initiatives: coaching and financial support.
  • Scholarships: financial and technical support to enter and complete formal education.
  • Stake holders: round-table meetings with local police and other stakeholders.
  • Referral system: referring sex workers to appropriate medical and social services.


  • 7 local partner organizations in 4 countries reached over 4,000 sex workers and stakeholders.
  • Over 2,200 sex workers benefited from psycho-social support.
  • Around 1,000 participants were trained in vocational and business skills; 46 of them received a microcredit loan to set up their own business.
  • Over 1,000 people took part in initiatives that helped improve sex workers’ social networks (examples: drop-in centres, child care, social events and training for caregivers)
  • Over 200 sex workers and stakeholders (including police and health care workers) took part in awareness-raising training courses.
  • Over 100 sex workers were trained specifically in health and safety skills.