KHPT’s strategic vision is to empower communities in Karnataka and India, working together to improve their health, reduce the incidence and burden of HIV and AIDS, and assert their rights and dignity. To achieve this vision, KHPT works with FSWs, MSMs and PLHIV to mobilize communities to form strong and effective CBOs that can challenge power structures, while creating an enabling environment. KHPT has identified three important needs related to forming strong CBOs that must be strengthened, both at individual and at group levels, to operationalize its overall empowerment strategy: enhancing the self-esteem and dignity of community members; facilitating the development of CBOs; and encouraging responsive governance of CBOs.
Three guiding principles that come together to build a platform for its philosophy for engaging with communities in Karnataka and the development of its overall community mobilization strategy.
To support the dignity of sex workers/ sexual minorities
KHPT recognizes sex workers right to life with dignity and will respond to the emerging demands of these communities for respect and dignity of life. This is guided by the realization that change in power relationships is necessary for realizing dignity: although some enter sex work by choice, most enter due to factors beyond their control, including death of or alienation by husbands, being dedicated as a Devadasi, or sexual trafficking.
To oppose violence and sexual abuse
KHPT will oppose any form of violence against communities and any system that exploits them. We condemn all forms of violence and sexual abuse as a serious violation of human rights. We will facilitate a response to violence and sexual abuse through capacity building to deal and cope with it, facilitating local mechanisms to support in risk management, and legal action.
Engagement with the State
KHPT believes that the State is the ‘rights holder’ as well as ‘rights provider’. The State has an obligation to ensure fulfillment of rights to all its citizens without any discrimination and is accountable to any rights violations. Making policy level changes that focus on communities vulnerabilities, such as lack of health care, social entitlements, stigma and discrimination is necessary for change. KHPT believes that the constitutional rights of the community members cannot be denied on the pretext of their profession. Therefore, it will act as an advocate to sensitize and educate policy makers about improving the overall human rights of community members by engaging in dialogue with the State.
Overall philosophy and strategy
The overall philosophy of KHPT is that FSWs, MSMs and PLHIV are marginalized and disadvantaged communities. To reduce their vulnerabilities and to achieve a reduction in HIV and AIDS the strategy adopted by KHPT is to encourage and facilitate community mobilization of these so that they can collectively challenge the power structures that cause their marginalization. It is a process where reflection on individual attitudes and beliefs, critical thinking and strengthened capacities will result in the formation of strong community-based organizations (CBOs) and networks.
KHPT is aware of the mainstream thinking that sees the need to form CBOs in the context of HIV prevention and as a strategy for behavior change. Although KHPT affirms that HIV prevention provides an opportunity to mobilize these high risk groups, it also considers that the formation of CBOs is not merely for HIV interventions. Rather it offers an opportunity to work with marginalized communities to help them work together to fight against discrimination, gain power, and claim their rights. KHPT will focus on an integrated response to HIV and AIDS taking into account both the overall societal dimensions and the prevention initiatives focused primarily on individual behavior change. KHPT recognizes that once these communities gain a public voice, they should be left to decide their own agenda, which may include a focus on HIV and AIDS.
In the reporting year, work continued towards strengthening institutional and programme management capacity of community-based organizations. CBO membership has continued to increase, and CBOs (both FSW and MSM) were supported to strengthen their organisational systems and democratic processes. As a part of CBO support, four key areas of community mobilization was the focus in all CBOs managing TIs. These four areas were statutory compliances, Organisational development, Finance management and linkage and networking. The base-line and end-line evaluation survey shows an increase in overall performance of CM components (42% in baseline to 59% in end line).
Linkage to microfinance activities
There is complete lack of safety of the earnings of the FSWs. And many of them are in some form of debt. This situation of the FSWs demanded for a system which gives them safety for their earnings and allows them to save money when are earning. Different systems like self help groups were tried but considerable proportion of female sex workers who mostly are mobile and migrant did not get much time be part of self help groups. Field observations and interactions reveal that most female sex workers are unable to access mainstream financial services – mainly due to stigma attached to their occupation and in majority of the cases; the families of the female sex workers are not aware that these women are engaged in sex work. Apart from this it is not possible to apply the normal banking norms on a sex worker population. Even upcoming micro Finance Institutions are not keen to serve this group, as they are dynamic population (being street based), stigma attached to occupation, difficulty to serve these clients along with general clients and lack of orientation, skill & attitude to interact with female sex workers Hence there is no other alternative before Chaitanya Mahila Sangha, but to promote own micro Finance Institution of their own. Based on the inspiration of Sonagachi project a Chaitanya Mahila Sangha formed a co operative society for the female sex workers which would address their saving and credit needs.
The Nava Chaitanya Multi purposed co operative women’s society was formed in September 2009 and was registered as cooperative on 26th October 2009. This formation was the result of series of consultation meetings and discussions with the community. Initially this cooperative society was covered Mudhol Taluk and later on extended to neighboring taluks. At present this society has 677 individual share holders and a share capital amount of more than a 3 lakhs. The society is completely managed and owned by the female sex workers and saving and credit facilities are available for the society members. There are 196 savings accounts in the society and more than 175 members availed the loan facilities from the society, with outstanding loan amount of over 6 lakhs. The average size of the loan amount is Rs. 4000 to 5000 per individual member.