Astrid Aune

Masters’ Student, Social Policy & Development, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

A central theme running through the MSc in Social Policy & Development is the need to reconceptualise who can contribute to policy making. In my dissertation on sex work policies and the extent to which they are able to protect sex workers’ rights, I’ve identified a decided ‘deafness’ to the policy recommendations made by sex workers themselves. The experiential and sectoral expertise, which is highly diverse, is relegated to narrative evidence next to the input of public health experts, by the deeply divided feminist academy and general social discomfort with this form of labour. A reconsideration of the validity of local knowledge for development creates opportunities to strengthen sex work policies that are contextual and holistic, thus meeting the goals of all actors concerned. A cause for optimism has recently come out of New Zealand, where a labour union for sex workers bargained for complete decriminalisation of the sex industry. Using a problem-posing system of collective adult education, sex workers were able to recognise their own expertise and the political validity of their collective input. This has created a model for social policy creation that transcends the sex industry. It demonstrates the value of changing the lens inwards to recognise local knowledge and offer it to policy-makers as crucial information that may have been missing in their decision-making processes.