The Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP) is a member based social justice organizing project that is led by and for young people of color who have current or former experience in the sex trade and street economies. Everybody who is on staff and has decision making power at YWEP was once a member here and is between the ages of 12-24 years old.
Our mission as the Young Women’s Empowerment Project is to offer safe, respectful, free-of-judgment spaces for girls and young women in the sex trade and street economies to recognize their goals, dreams and desires.YWEP is Chicago based project that was founded in 2002 by a radical feminist and harm reduction based collective of women and girls involved in the sex trade and street economy and our allies.We were created by women and girls who believe that any girl can be empowered and that all girls are priceless, creative, and smart and can be leaders in their communities.
Our first director was Claudine O’Leary. To see the work she is doing now click here
We are not a social service agency. Every single person at YWEP has a paid job-which means that about 30-40 young people work here.
We are a peer based project. This means we are a youth only, totally youth run space. We don’t do “Intakes” or find people housing, or take people to court, etc. If a girl needs something we can’t provide, we make a referral to someone we trust who we think can help out. We never share information or ask for identification. In fact, we don’t allow social workers, lawyers or law enforcement in our offices! But we do have some Adult Allies who help us figure things out. For more information about our Staff and Adult Allies.
Become a part of YWEP
At YWEP girls can get involved right away! If you are between the ages of 12-23 and have experience trading sex for money, drugs, a place to stay, survival needs, gifts or protection or gang involvement — then feel free to come by. YWEP is open to any person who identifies as girl… that means transgender girls are welcome here!
We have an Open Time every Thursday from 4-7pm where girls can:
- Use the Computer/Internet
- Get clothes from the FREE clothing exchange
- Meet and talk with other girls and get support
- Get FREE clean rigs and works or drop off your dirties
- Get FREE condoms and safer sex supplies
After Open Time you can stay for a GIRLS in CHARGE meeting from 6:30-8:00pm every Thursday