Guiding principles

The SYEE training program follows some general guiding principles. Each module will begin by introducing a few principles that will be built on and referred back to throughout the entire course.

This video summarizes the ideas discussed below:

Our guiding principles are ongoing, cumulative, and intersecting ideas, values, or practices that are essential to supporting youth who experience exploitation and include:

  • Youth-directed: when providing support to anyone, service providers should prioritize their client’s individual autonomy and decision-making. This is particularly essential when supporting youth who have experienced exploitation. Exploitation places youth in a position where someone else has control over physical, emotional, psychological, and/or financial aspects of their life. A service provider’s job is to ensure that their clients retain this control as much as possible. Youth-directed support recognizes and upholds that youth know what they need best and gives youth the time, space, information, resources, and opportunities to make their own choices.

  • Sex work positivity: as will be addressed in Module 1, conflations between sex work and sexual exploitation create barriers and can be harmful to clients when used to create policy or programs. Sex work positivity means we respect, care about, and uplift sex workers and the important work they do. Internationally and historically, sex work is a respectable, legitimate form of work and a viable livelihood strategy equal to any other industry (ex. construction, food and service). However, in most places, sex workers are still forced to advocate for their basic rights.

  • Intersectional lens: intersectionality is a feminist, anti-oppressive perspective recognizing that oppression based on race, gender, socio-economic conditions, sexuality, ability, etc. will inherently intersect and compound. Intersectionality upholds that individuals experience the world, discrimination, and oppression in diverse, and often multiple ways. As such, youth’s decisions, needs, and desires will likely be informed by their unique position in the world. Youth must be upheld as the experts of their own experience and their needs – intersectionality therefore includes youth-directed support and sex work positive perspectives. As well, it means diversity (of race, gender, ability etc.) in services and service providers is essential for effectively connecting with and supporting youth. Although the term ‘Intersectionality’ was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, the concept of intersectionality has been developed through Black women’s rights movements since at least the 19th century.

  • Relationality: relationality is deeply connected to client-centered or youth-directed practices and is about creating authentic relationships based in reciprocity. Relationality includes respecting and upholding the self-determination of youth in order to genuinely create solutions together. Reciprocity ensures that both sides are contributing to the efforts and that power dynamics which favour service providers are shifted toward the client. This means service providers should seek opportunities to ask for support from their clients in efforts toward the shared goal. A lack of relationality or a dynamic in which a service provider hopes to save or change a client can isolate both the client and the service provider. As described by Folgheraiter and Raineri, without relationality “a certain distress, at times even a burnout, results from the impossibility of being in authentic contact with the person [accessing support].”
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