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Social Work and Human Rights in Singapore | Singapore, Singapore

Photo courtesy of Project X. More photos from this internship can be found here.

Intern with a community-based organization in Singapore working to improve human rights for sex workers and the LGBTQ community. Project X’s founder recognized that sex workers in Singapore were marginalized and discriminated, without access or support for basic services promoting basic human rights. This unique internship provides interns with the opportunity to interact directly with stakeholders while supporting research, advocacy, and online outreach. Interns with additional language skills will also be able to support Project X staff during in-person outreach.

The ideal intern will be interested in LGBTQ and feminist issues, human rights, social services, research, and advocacy. Interns should be self-starters and able to approach sensitive and challenging situations with an open-mind and grace.

Internship Start Dates:

  • Internship is available all terms

Duration of Internship:

  • 10+ weeks

Based on the belief that sex worker’s rights are the same fundamental human rights that everyone is inherently entitled to, Project X aims to challenge the stigma of sex work and end discrimination that results in physical, verbal, emotional, and financial violence. As a community-based organization, Project X ensures that sex workers are hired as staff and are directly involved in the planning and execution of programs.

In 2008, founder and social worker Wong Yock Leng noticed that sex workers in Singapore were some of the most marginalized and discriminated individuals in society and that there was a gap in services for the sex worker community. Project X envisions a future with a fair and safe sex industry for everyone involved, and a society that respects sex workers, their clients, partners, and families. To do this, they:

  • Empower sex workers of all sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to take charge of their lives by providing space for self-determination.
  • Increase sex workers’ awareness of their basic human rights, thereby increasing reports of violence and abuse.
  • Speak out against violence against sex workers from law enforcers, clients, and members of the public.
  • Increase sex workers’ knowledge of health issues, including but not limited to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.
  • Advocate for universal access to high standards of reproductive and sexual health services.
  • Foster a community that is supportive and inclusive through workshops and events.
  • Dispel myths of sex work and the inaccurate conflation with sex trafficking.
  • Advocate for the end of legal oppression of sex workers.

For more information, visit the Project X website or check out current events on Facebook.

Project X serves a marginalized community and provides multilingual and non-judgmental services. Interns should be open-minded, passionate about non-profit work and advocacy, and comfortable working alongside sex workers and LGBTQ populations – these individuals work in the office and their voices are important. This unique internship provides a rare opportunity to interact directly with stakeholders in their working environment. It is important to note that criminalization of sex work is not a goal of Project X.

The organization is usually working on at least two or three research projects at any given time, in addition to following local and regional news, policy changes, and societal issues. All interns can expect to support online research as part of their internship. Project X also hosts public and community education programs, including talks, art exhibits, and film screenings. The need for advocacy means that they are also lobbying politicians and running petitions and social media campaigns regularly.

Interns with experience or an interest in marketing, accounting, auditing, coding, and translation may also work in those areas. Interns will need to be self-motivated and willing to take the initiative to talk to people and come up with their own projects. It is expected that interns will reevaluate their goals and work as they go, being conscientious of their own personal needs and those of the organization.

Interns with language skills beyond English are strongly encouraged to apply! Fluency is not required, but an understanding of basic conversation and an ability to communicate is expected. On-the-ground outreach is often done in languages other than English, depending on the languages of the sex workers. Relevant languages include: Thai, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Telugu, Tamil, Sinhalese, Tagalog/Filipino, Russian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

For candidates who only speak English, the internship will primarily focus on online outreach (using translation software as needed), research, and communications. Occasional on-the-ground outreach may be possible, but it will be limited due to language.

Due to the focus on outreach, this internship takes place from Tuesday-Friday from approximately 3-11pm. Interns will start each day in the office working on research, communication, advocacy, and online outreach. In the evening, staff will head out across the city for on-the-ground outreach in areas where sex work is common.

Important items to note:

  • Safety is a top priority – all interns receive comprehensive training and on-the-ground outreach is always done in pairs with a trained staff member. Interns should be prepared to work in challenging environments.
  • Individuals with asthma or other sensitivities may need to abstain from some outreach due to the prevalence of cigarette smoking in many environments and cats in the office.

Academic Background:

This internship is open to students from all majors. Coursework in social work, social justice, political science, human services, or women and gender studies is recommended.

Skills / Experience:

Interns must be professional and non-judgmental. Excellent interpersonal skills are required.

Due to the highly sensitive nature of the work and the need to gain the trust of the sex workers and build relationships, this internship is best suited for students with prior experience working with marginalized populations.  

Language Requirements:

English is the primary language for office work, but additional languages are key for outreach. Candidates with conversational skills or better in the following languages are preferred: Thai, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Telugu, Tamil, Sinhalese, Tagalog/Filipino, Russian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Other Requirements:

Please see the job description for important items about the expectations for this internship.

Estimated One-Time Expenses

  • IE3 Global Program Fee: $3,450
  • International Travel: $1,300
  • Visa Fees: $150 (Singapore Work Holiday Pass)
  • Recommended Immunizations: $200

Estimated Monthly Expenses

  • Housing: $800-$1,000
  • Food: $450
  • Local Transportation: $115
  • Recreation: $200
  • Personal Expenses: $100

Budgeting Note: Estimated costs are based on typical internship-related costs and a modest standard of living. Each intern’s costs will vary based on lifestyle choices (eating out vs. cooking, taking public transportation vs. taxis) and recreational spending (travelling on days off, hobbies, etc).

Interns will receive a SGD $15/day stipend to help offset transportation and food costs.

Interns are responsible for finding and arranging their own accommodations. Singapore has strict rules regarding short-term rentals for foreigners (less than three months), so interns should plan ahead to arrange suitable accommodations.

“I have worked with activists and workers in the sex industry in Singapore, honed my interpersonal and intercultural skills, developed computer-based and quantitative research skills… I have gained a clear understanding of the industry and how it’s embedded in the sociopolitical landscape of Singapore. I also met a lot of our partners, like members of parliament, the police and other NGOs, which gave me a greater understanding of how Project X operates and what advantages and constraints NGOs face in achieving their goals…I got to know a Southeast Asian culture filled with paradox. I’ve learned a lot about non-profit work, what it’s like living on the margins of a modern state, and how to adapt quickly to an unfamiliar work environment.”

-Shuxi, University of Oregon

Terms

Fall | Winter | Spring | Summer

Application Deadline

Summer: January 25

Fall: April 15

Winter: September 1

Spring: November 15

Basic Requirements

- Background in social work, advocacy, NPOs, and feminist work

- Passionate about human rights for all

- Additional languages like Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Thai are a plus