#HerWorldHerStory: Vanessa Ho wants to create equal opportunities for sex workers in Singapore

by Cara Van Miriah; Hayley Tai; Cheong Wen Xuan  /   April 12, 2020

As Executive Director of Project X, she’s the voice of sex workers and hopes to create more awareness about their plight


#HerWorldHerStory is a collection of 60 women sharing their successes, passions, challenges, inspirations, hopes and dreams. Together, they give a snapshot of what it is to be a woman today.

Every month from March till August, we present 10 women navigating their lives now – and in their own words. This is Vanessa Ho’s story…

Hair Hongling, using Kevin.Murphy Makeup Benedict Choo, using Cle De Peau Beaute

I no longer judge people too quickly, and I’ve learnt this through my full-time work at Project X – a sex workers’ rights group founded in 2008 that provides sex workers with equal opportunities, and protect them from the violent crimes they are often subjected to. I’ve always believed in gender equality, and wanted to pursue a career in this field. I did so after graduating from university.

Most times, sex workers don’t need my sympathy. They ask for empathy, and for others to stand with them to say, “I’m with her”.

I’m involved in a lot of outreach to sex workers in a handful of areas in Singapore. I talk to them and assist them with any family, social, or health problems they may face. But what I don’t do is telling sex workers how they should live life or change their lives. 

I’ve seen many challenging cases over time. Many cases of abuse and assault go unreported because they‘re fearful of repercussions that they would be arrested or deported, if they admitted to providing sexual services. I want to eradicate the feeling of helplessness experienced by sex workers, and encourage more to speak up when they are subjected to abuse.

Project X operates from two community centres in Little India and Central Singapore. They’re safe spaces for sex workers to come and meet our community workers and discuss the issues they face.

We’re a team of three, assisted by 15 volunteers. Besides online programs, we also run empowerment workshops for sex workers in areas such as mental health, legal rights, and sexual health.

Our latest initiative, The Next Step, helps sex workers, who want to retire from the industry, to move on and integrate with society. Through our work – and more awareness, I hope more people are empathetic towards sex workers.

This article was first published in Her World’s April issue. Grab a copy today!