Authors: Young Women’s Empowerment Project, 2009
Citation (MLA): Young Women’s Empowerment Project. Girls Do What They Have to Do to Survive: Illuminating Methods Used by Girls in the Sex Trade and Street Economy to Fight Back and Heal. Chicago, 2009.
Youth activist summary:
This research is for US. It’s for YOU and for all girls, including transgender girls, and young women, including trans women involved in the sex trade and street economy.
This research study was created by girls, collected by girls, and analyzed by girls.
We did this because this is OUR LIVES. Who knows us better than us?
We did this to prove that we care–that we are capable of resisting violence in a multitude of ways.
We take care of ourselves and heal in whatever way feels best for us—whether society approves of it or not.
This research study honors all of the ways we fight back (resistance) and our healing (resilience) methods.
We proved that we do face violence but we are not purely victims. We are survivors. We can take care of ourselves and we know what we need.
This research is a response to all of those researchers, doctors, government officials, social workers, therapists, journalists, foster care workers and every other adult who said we were too messed up or that we needed to be saved from ourselves.
The next time someone tells you that you don’t know what’s best for you, look towards our tool kit for inspiration. We wrote the tool kit with the intent of giving you ideas about how girls have survived this life—not to tell you what to do.
We did this. We did the research. And now we are sharing it with you so that you know that girls do what they have to do to survive.
Summary (from “Our Research”):
YWEP began our first experience with Participatory Evaluation Research in 2006. With a grant through the Cricket Island Foundation’s Capacity Building Initiative, we met Catlin Fullwood, an activist, researcher, and trainer. Catlin taught us a research method in which all members of the community could be involved in the development, data collection, and analysis of the research.
Our 2006 research project had three learning questions. We wanted to find out (1) what effect harm reduction was having on our outreach contacts. We also wanted to find out (2) who our allies were and weren’t as a harm reduction based, youth-led social justice project. Lastly, (3) we wanted to learn more about how girls respond to other girls in positions of leadership. For this research project, we did a literature review, several focus groups with YWEP leadership and membership, and we collected over 300 surveys from our outreach contacts across Chicago and Illinois.