SWAN grew out of a pilot community health care initiative that extended HIV/AIDS outreach to local massage parlours. During the project, we recognized that women working in massage parlours were dealing with a host of issues that were much broader than sexual health. The concerns that were most important to women in massage parlours were issues related to the law, immigration, and safety among others. At the end of the project, we recognized how important outreach work was and decided to continue working together. In December 2002, the outreach workers formed the Sex Workers Action Network (SWAN).
In 2008, SWAN incorporated as a non-profit society. We changed our name to Supporting Women’s Alternatives Network to ensure the inclusion of im/migrant women who do sex work but do not self-identify as sex workers.
In 2017, SWAN became a registered charitable organization.
In the nearly two decades since its inception, SWAN has cultivated and continues sustaining a unique network within a sex-working community that experiences exacerbated vulnerabilities because of the conflation of anti-im/migrant, anti-sex work and anti-trafficking rhetoric, and the widespread municipal and federal laws and enforcement that result.