Between 2017 and 2018, an innovative project was launched in Vietnam aimed at supporting sex workers dealing with self-stigma and shame, and improving their overall wellbeing and mental health, self-worth, self-agency, self-care, empowerment, and ability to engage meaningfully in life. The research conducted showed that self-stigma was widespread among sex workers, including those living with HIV, with serious implications for their quality of life. Workshops were developed and delivered to the community of sex workers during this period.
In 2020, a video series called 'Embrace Yourself' was launched, delivering focused video messages on self-stigma, shame, thoughts, and thinking via social media and face-to-face groups to the community of sex workers and other marginalized groups, including people living with HIV, transgender people, people who use drugs, and men who have sex with men. The project also saw the development of a new measurement scale called 'The Living Well' Scale in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
The project was implemented in partnership with SCDI Vietnam (Supporting Community Development Initiatives).
Workshop: Self-Stigma, Shame, and Stressful Thinking
In this 3-day workshop, SCDI staff and members of the sex worker community came together to learn how to change their beliefs and perceptions of themselves. This program used The Work of Byron Katie: Inquiry Based Stress Reduction to identify and transform the thoughts that cause self-stigma and shame for sex workers. This workshop was successful in helping change the way the participants thought about themselves by incorporating activities such as awareness thinking, advice giving, music appreciation, meditation, letter writing, group sharing, and The Wall of Shame.
The Wall of Shame is an activity that asks the participants 'What judgements do people have about sex workers/people living with HIV/ women in your community/men in your community/you?' This gives the participants a safe space to talk about what causes them shame and identify sources of self-stigma. The facilitators of this workshop guided the participants through challenging these beliefs that result in stigma in order to demonstrate that all the thoughts we have are not always true. Responses to The Wall of Shame are presented below:
This workshop aimed to introduce The Work of Byron Katie, help the participants question their own negative beliefs, teach the concept of self-stigma, and test the initial curriculum amongst sex workers in Hanoi, Vietnam. The participants reported that their experience in the workshop taught them to love themselves, reflect on their thoughts, and how to overcome self-stigma.