The Realstars project Växtkraft Thai has recently begun to form, the aim is to provide support and better conditions for young women working at Thai massage institutes in Gothenburg, Malmö and Stockholm. The core is to be able to work in a serious and safe environment, within a healthy business and without stigma.
The background is that the massage industry is one of the riskiest industries for sexual exploitation in Sweden today, and Thai-massage places are particularly exposed when it comes to the work environment. The project aims to not only raise the status for Thai massage, but also contribute to skills enhancement and widened professional roles. The project will also execute information efforts to remove men who buys sex from visiting the saloons.
Right now, we are preparing the project and having conversations with the Thai massage places through phone calls and digital meetings. Due to covid-19, we have chosen to wait with physical visits to decrease the risk of spread. Åsa and Mojsan are working intensely with calling around and building connections. On March 8th, we have our first reference group meeting with several of the women in the project.
1) Is it possible to give a general view of how the situation looks like for the women you are speaking to at this time?
In the current situation, we see that the pandemic really has affected the massage industry. Within our phone calls, we can hear both a tiredness and exhaustion from the women. Less clients during the pandemic have affected many financially, and in some cases led to debt. Several saloons are additionally visited by sex-buying men, attempting to buy sexual actions. There is a worry the women who previously haven’t been sexually exploited now end up in this vulnerable situation. Many of the women also state how they don’t have knowledge of what kind of support there is available during the pandemic, or where to turn.
2) We are launching a concept called “Between women”, can you describe that?
“Between women” is a concept where women can meet at networking events, bond and have conversations to share personal and professional experiences and to develop within their profession. The women’s opportunities and needs are central for the different efforts.
3) How will the project work to raise the status of Thai massage places and increase the profitability?
Together with Svensk Massage, we are working to examine the possibility for Swedish validation of Thai massage. We are also viewing the possibility of complementary occupational education. We will additionally work together with different actors who can provide support to the women’s businesses and entrepreneurship to strengthen their profitability and competitiveness. One part of this is that we, as clients of Thai massage places, pay reasonable prices for the massage.
4) Many have recently arrived in Sweden from Thailand and may need support with integration, language etc: What can Växtkraft Thai offer here?
Many of the women need language enhancing efforts before they can move onto other efforts. Växtkraft Thai will support the women through customized language courses where the women can practice together. Additionally, efforts within society orientation will be provided as well as support in contact with different authorities, businesses and so on. The project is based on empowerment where the women are given the opportunity to develop, both personally as within their profession.
Åsa and Mojsan with the campaign material.