Who do you work with?:
Aastha Parivaar works with male, female, and transgender (hijra) sex workers, people living with HIV, and the children of sex workers through 13 typology-specific community based organisations across Mumbai and Thane. We also support the health of bridge populations like truck drivers who are at high-risk of contracting HIV.
How are sex workers involved in your organisation?:
Aastha Parivaar is a federation of 13 community-based organisations (CBOs). Each CBO is run by elected leaders from the sex worker community and the day-to-day operations are conducted by the sex workers who are employed as peer educators, outreach workers, project managers, etc. The entire federation's elected governing board and managing committee, which set the priorities of the organisation, are also made up of sex workers.
Which of NSWP priority areas does your organisation work on?:
Oppose the criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work and support its recognition as work
Advocate for universal access to health services, including primary health care, HIV and sexual and reproductive health services
Speak out about violence against sex workers, including violence from police, institutions, clients, and intimate partners, while challenging the myth that sex work is inherently gender-based violence
Challenge stigma and discrimination against sex workers, their families and partners, and others involved in sex work
Advocate for the economic empowerment and social inclusion of sex workers as sex workers
What are the two main challenges that the sex workers you work with face:
When our organisation started, one of the greatest challenges faced by the sex worker community was police harassment. In the past 9 years, however, our sensitisation efforts have greatly reduced incidence of conflict with the police. Another enduring challenge faced by our community is acceptance of their work in their families and greater society. Our Aastha Gats (self help groups) are a great source of support to the sex workers in times of crisis and function as family units.
Describe other areas of your work:
Initially an HIV intervention, our programme continues to work to prevent HIV transmission and support individuals who are HIV positive. In addition, we advocate for sex workers with all stakeholders, support the general health of the sex worker community, provide alternative livelihood training, and support the education of the children of sex workers. Each of Aastha Parivaar's CBOs focuses on a geographic location or typology to ensure the unique needs of each community are addressed.