Promoting inclusive development, mainstreaming and social integration of women in sex work, transgender persons and sexual minority through community centred policy change and praxis- a community led pilot project
Putting communities at the centre of the response has been one of the key strategies used by CFAR over the last two decades. From 2012-2017, leaders from sex workers organisations (CBO), transgender and sexual minority populations have attempted to mainstream their concerns, promote an inclusive development agenda and address social and policy exclusion in 5 States – Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Manipur.
5 years down the line (around 2011-2012), these groups were grappling with the issue of getting recognised as legible citizens and due entitlement holders. Their concerns ranged from “being discriminated due to their profession” (Link voice- Manda Chavan, MH NMEW Consultation Report) to systemic ambiguities “over not being able to fulfill the scheme inclusion criteria” (Link Voice – Pushpalata, KTK NMEW Consultation Report)
Today (2017), they have “bridged the gap between knowledge and action” and have made policy makers realise that “programme and policies need to be framed with due sensitivity to community concerns”. (Link Voice – Kashibai’s from National Dissemination Meet Report)
Having created their own community driven pedagogy to address exclusion, the baton has been passed on to women from urban poor unorganised sectors in 4 urban centres (Ajmer, Bhubaneshwar, Bengaluru and Pune) who, confronted with equally “extreme experiences of neglect, denial and rejection and exclusion from development” have “learnt to collectivise and collectively shape efforts and initiatives to help reduce their vulnerabilities and strengthen their access to development spaces and opportunities”. (APPI film)
The initiative of sex workers was primarily driven by leaders from sex workers organisations (CBO) (Link to picture gallery of CBO leaders with a small profile) from 7 districts of the 4 States (Ananthapur and East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, Bengaluru and Belgaum in Karnataka, Solapur in Maharashtra and Madurai and Salem in Tamilnadu). (Link to community AV Interviews)
These leaders played diverse roles.
Some led the difficult task of generating ground level evidences on exclusion factors – (Link Report of Assessment study release with SyedaHameed)
Some shaped the negotiations with policy and decision makers (MandaChavan, MH:– MH Community Recommendations for State Women’s Policy) and fostered collaboration with NMEW; leveraged its mandate to pilot and innovate to build for the government new goals and perspective on social inclusion of sex workers and transgender persons
Some consistently worked for engaging government, ministries and institutions at apex and local level (Link to NMEW Consultation Reports), crystallised policy and programme solutions and demonstrated actual inclusion on ground through Single Window Centres (Link evaluation report)
To do this, 295 of them actually got trained hands on to dialogue and negotiate, 163 got skilled as community researchers and 133 got trained to depose and defend their rights on various platforms. Further, their counterparts (105) from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi and associated with federations such as All India Network of Sex Work,underwent trainings in leadership development and CBO management. (Link to CM End Of Project Report).
So while in the south, these initiatives helped to strengthened transgender led CBO, V-CAN in the far northeast, Community Empowerment Network (CoNE), a CBO working with People Using Drugs,“intensified its advocacy on affordable and quality treatment and community care”. (Link to V-CAN and CoNE final reports).
These confidence raising endeavours with the community further resulted in 9 CBOs from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka taking the lead in executing first of its kind resource mobilisation and enterprise building initiative which supported 310 children with nutrition, educational and vocational support and 100 sex workers for entrepreneurship activities.(Link to Challenge Fund Final Report)
Yet some (around 25), have now graduated as Master Trainers, (Link to Workshop Report), and through structured learning tools and processes,are striving to strengthen and prod the movement ahead by educating their peers on the essentials of catalysing inclusion.(Link to Master Trainer Module)
Between 2012 to now 2017, as community researchers,their work became a corner stone of all efforts. The evidences they generated proved path breaking (Link Voice – Dr.Galab, CESS meeting, Oct 2013) and showed that the community of sex workers was ready to get integrated and seek all their entitlements (, Link Voice – Mootamma Community Researcher in Ktk Dissemination Report); but the system had no understanding of them and this was being exploited by intermediaries and corrupt middlemen (Link Voice – SyedaHameed – AP Release Report)
As it fed into shaping programme and policy response, the skills gained by the researchers was put to use in holding governments accountable for systemic lapses and demanding inclusive practices around the response to HIV as well. So while in 2011, they enhanced community participation under NACP IV (Link to Community Consultation Reports), more lately, they escalated NACO and Health Ministry’s response on the issue of shortage of HIV drugs and services.(Link to ART Reports)
Going further (2017), with the urban poor populations of Ajmer, Pune, Bhubaneswar and Bengaluru, a cadre of 159 community researchers and advocates, inspired and motivated by these experiences, are using diverse tools like Citizen Report Card, Community Assessments and Feedback Surveys to intensify governance engagement with as many as 14637 marginalised families representing an unorganised work force of 34372 from 32 slums.(Link to NITI Aayog Note)
The government and administration -across the states- got moved and encouraged by the determination of the Community Organizations and leaders and a beginning was made between 2012-2013 to get them understood, engage with their concerns and get them included (, Link Voice – Mr J K Banthia Former Chief Secretary, Mh State – Report – Outcome Document Mh 2013)
The terms of engagement differed -Maharashtra responded with policy changes and new GRs (Link to MH Policy and GR), Karnataka with strong programme mandate, AP across department and sectors (Link To Evaluation Report) and TN by absorbing the entire process into their district response and on-going interventions.
All this necessitated creation of an enabling ecosystem and both the Judiciary NALSA Report and the Police NPA-Training of IPS Trainers, Hyderabad, 2013 was engaged to the concerns of the community and educated about protection of community rights even while exercising the law. This resulted in a commitment to “set aside personal baggage and scrutinize how legal services can be accessed by a special set of people marginalized for centuries..” (Link to VOICE: Hon Justice P. Sathasivam from 2013 NALSA Meet Report)
The efforts were consistent across all 5 years along with community education and engagement initiatives and through informative modules. (, Voice – Sh. V. N. Rai, Director, NPA – Link – ITPA Module)
At the ground level, the community set up a Platform for Convergence called -Varaadhi, Sahaya, Prarmbh and Paalam across seven districts-Bengaluru, Belgavi, Solapur, Madurai, Salem, East Godavari and Anantapur. (Voice: Veena, Bangalore: Link to Single Window Dissemination Report). These platforms, designated as Single Window Centres, used community shaped tools and processes to identify beneficiaries of various schemes, create informed perspectives within them to assert rightful inclusion, work with the systems and procedures to widen and ease community access and finally advocate/negotiate right from the taluk/block level administration to highest order at the State and National level.
These initiatives impacted inclusion at both policy and programme level with a total of 33 schemes (link to scheme inclusion data) getting revisited, expanded or reformed to include 25636 community members and their children as beneficiaries. Going a step further, the figures show that the model catalysed sectoral inclusion such as on Social Security (Pension, Food Security, Housing, Education), Economic Security (credit, loans, financial services, SHGs), Livelihood (Labour Welfare, Skill Development and placement) and the necessary package of citizenship entitlements (Adhaar, Voter card).(Link to Evaluation Report)
The model was deemed critical for extremely vulnerable populations and significant for other marginalised groups as it “demonstrated many valuable lessons on the process of community led facilitation for accessing social entitlements” (Link: VOICE: Preeti Sudan from and Final Dissemination Meet Report)
The NITI Aayog recommended the States to adapt the lessons of the pilot for other marginalised groups. The MoWCD urged the Windows do the “necessary handholding for implementing the Village Convergence and Facilitation Centres. (Link to Single Window DWCD Module)
This legacy established by the community leaders continues to influence scores of equally marginalised groups and leaders. A testimony to this movement of self-determination and assertion are the 4 Single Windows at urban poor centres (Link to APPI Report) of Pune, Ajmer, Bhubaneswar and Bengaluru which are being run by community members. Following an equally similar paradigm of addressing marginalisation and lack of equity, these leaders have enabled 12843 families and individuals to access critical urban poor schemes, programmes and services. (Link to APPI Film).
The movement only seems to grow stronger by the day with community groups willing to sustain and scale up such endeavours and pass the baton on to other geographies and groups.
We have taken several initiatives in past few months and received positive response from Government Departments. Noteworthy developments include – modifications in the application form for ration card to facilitate inclusion of transgender to apply for ration card, enrollment of children of sex workers in schools through special door-to-door campaign and circular by housing department to provide houses for transgender under Slum Development.
“We collected the information through survey, mapping and conducted a Campaign. We distributed many pamphlets, posters on schemes to community respondents. We also conducted cultural programs on entitlements like dance, songs to create awareness to community. After that few Panel Members came to us to take our scoring on schemes and its access. We had group meeting with them and we gave our marks according to our experiences on schemes based questions. This is what we had the process with the support of HLFPPT and CFAR
“Steps need to be taken to recognize and link up SHGs run by sex workers. All leadership and skill development opportunities imparted by MAVIM to strengthen SHGs should also be extended to SHGs run by the community of sex workers
These communities have undertaken a complex study and to a great extent they have been fair and open minded and not allowed their negative experiences to overwhelm their perceptions. My colleagues and I have been humbled by their initiative and feel that any research or mediation that is undertaken on these communities must provide a platform to the community to speak up, shape the assessment and be part of all solutions.
“it is the duty of the officers to help the women to access government schemes whether it is housing or pension. It is the women who have to decide whether she wants to continue or stop doing sex work; but every programme has to reach these women”
What I gather from the summery is readiness especially of rural areas for sex workers to begin to access the schemes and programs. That readiness and ability, response of the system may not be there…. We planning commission must work with you. You opened up our entire process with this report.
“I am concerned over the inhuman treatment meted out to you all…..”
The police due to ignorance, unfamiliarity, biases and prejudices do not see marginalized communities as being entitled to the protection of the law and the extension of legal rights on par with other sections of society. Only a sensitized police can service society in accordance with the Constitution, the principles of Human Rights, the Rule of Law and the manner in which it is expected to be served. Society may view the actions of marginalized communities as criminal acts but the Police cannot decriminalize anything that is seen as a criminal act under the law