How to break the cycle of economic disempowerment.
Disclaimer: Before Estelle creates a weekly video for the Bigger Sister Channel Youtube, they go through a process of writing about the weekly topic to better prepare and articulate themselves. Estelle is a stronger writer than they are a presenter, and we’ve shared this writing process alongside the accompanying video, for those who want more in-depth explanations. In this blog post, Estelle continues on from our last blog post and explains how they intend to break themselves, and other sex workers, out of the cycle of economic disempowerment.
Welcome to Bigger Sister Channel, my name is Estelle and I’m developing an educational program to economically empower sex workers. But what does that even mean, economic empowerment, and how does that relate to sex workers? If you haven’t already, I suggest you watch the video ‘unpacking how economic disempowerment render marginalised populations vulnerable’ on Youtube which explains the problem, before watching this video where I will share the solution.
What is economic empowerment?
We know the theory of the cycle of economic disempowerment, so what’s the solution? How do we break out of this cycle? What does economic empowerment look like? To me, economic empowerment requires two things.
One is the skills and knowledge. We need to increase our financial literacy, to help us identify financial stresses and diagnose our financial health. If we don’t know what we’re doing we can’t improve our financial wellbeing and we need to build our awareness and knowledge about the systems at play. That can be systems within yourself, like tracking your income and expenses, or it can be about knowing how to leverage and use the system greater than ourselves, like government schemes or tax laws. This is the type of stuff they should be teaching us at school and if you’re lucky, you might get it from your parents. This is the type of stuff that prevents us from receiving an unexpected tax bill of thousands of dollars, or suddenly being retired with little to no superannuation, or knowing how to make money from money so you’re not endlessly laboring. I will be covering this material and there’s no reason why non-sex workers can’t benefit from this content.
Second is the tools and practice. There’s absolutely no way you can do all the financial and business side of things by yourself and without any tools. However, it’s risky using tools as a sex worker, you can be discriminated against, you could be stigmatised, and this can well and truly impact your health, your reputation, your future, depending on the cultural context you’re in. That’s why I’m going to take one for the team and not only identify sex worker friendly tools, businesses, services and products, but I’m going to use them and review them. What good are all my privileges if I’m not putting them to use, I’m face-out now, my future is irreversibly tied to Estelle, who else is better fit to put their neck on the line?
By reviewing products, you can decide for yourself whether Hnry is the right accounting app (Edit: use SISTER promo code) for you, or an Excel spreadsheet (leave a comment for a template) or an in-person accountant like Money Before the Honey. But I’m not just going to find these tools, rate them, review them, recommend them, but for those who say they are sex worker friendly, I’m going to do a bit of advocacy and really make sure what they say is what they do. I’m going to tell them what changes they need to make to be more accessible and safe for sex workers. I'm going to interview their staff, so you can make an informed decision yourself about what tools work for you.
Storytelling and synthesis
Now, for us to synthesis the skills, knowledge, tools and practices, we’re going to need to reframe our lives. To do this, to demonstrate it, I’m going to ask my fellow peers to join me in the Bigger Sister Channel Community Podcast where we share our financial concerns and status, and assuming I can, I’m going to troubleshoot your situation with you. We’re going to explore these issues and improve our lives together, live, through the Community Podcast. So if there's financial stress you’re experiencing, don’t be shy, tell me about it. And if I can’t help you, I’m going to find an expert that can and I’m going to get their advice and opinion.
The more real stories and scenarios we’re able to share on Bigger Sister Channel, the more opportunities I have to go find an expert, interview them and share the results. We are such a diverse population, the more stories we have to cover the more relatability we have of each other's experience. And we learn better through storytelling, you’re much more likely to remember ‘hey, I remember when Estelle had to register for GST to get that 1 million dollar home’ rather than ‘how do I have to do my taxes to get a home loan to buy a million dollar home again?’
But that’s not all. For us to increase our financial wellbeing we need community spaces, we need skill-sharing workshops to come together and really put into practice all the things we said we’re going to do, we’re going to put those systems in place, we’re going to learn the new habits, we’re going to reflect with like-minded peers. Once a month Bigger Sister Channel will facilitate these skill-sharing spaces and we will rotate between online and in person, and we will rotate between different financial concepts and ideas. This is a form of accountability for yourself and our peers.
And there you have it, that’s the package, that’s my blueprint to economic empowerment. Everyone is going to have a different definition of what financial freedom or economic empowerment means to them and this blueprint is just a map, a safe way to get there. But there’s one final problem that needs to be resolved. How do we get this blueprint into the hands of those who need it? And that’s where Bigger Sister Channel comes into play. Many of these aspects that create the cycle of economic disempowerment are systemic and my proposed solution, the blueprint of knowledge, skill, tools and practices, is all individual level intervention. You cannot break a system as an individual, it is designed to withstand individual resistance. That’s why I needed to create something a bit bigger than an individual.
You are only as strong as your community
I’m Turkish and in my culture, there’s a saying that says you're only as strong as your community. The system can easily crush an individual, it already does on a daily basis. To resist these odds, it takes a community. If we want to break the system that gridlock sex workers into a cycle of vulnerability, we need to unlearn individualistic mindsets we’re socially conditioned to default into and replicate. We need to learn to support each other unconditionally to the best of our ability, whilst still surviving and thriving in a hostile system and political environment. That’s why I created Bigger Sister Channel. I wanted a public facing platform, not just to deliver our resources, skills and knowledge effectively, but to give everyone an opportunity to contribute whilst still maintaining their privacy and confidentiality. Bigger Sister Channel is a front for something much greater and that is how I’m planning to distribute information beyond the blueprint to economic empowerment.
Putting it all together
So there you have it, we have our four domains: knowledge, skill, tools and practices, to overcome these obstacles: financial insecurity, precarity, stigma and discrimination, and we have our five means to achieve this: videos and regular social media content, a Community Podcast, skillsharing workshops, access to sex worker friendly products and services and expert interviews with financial professionals.
That’s it from me and next time I will be seeing you to cover some basic definitions when it comes to financial wellbeing.
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