Female, male and transgender sex workers in Mysore, India, formally register Ashodaya Samithi as a sex worker-led community-based organisation. This sex worker community initially came together to access HIV prevention related services in 2004, but over time aspired to achieve other goals as well. By 2015, they are working with over 8000 sex worker members.
With links to the University of Manitoba, Canada, and support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the organisation’s early activities include:
- Community-led mapping and estimating the number of sex workers in an area in order to provide appropriate services to them;
- Community engagement to learn the immediate needs of sex workers;
- Setting up a safe space, a community clinic, and addressing violence and police action as a result of the priorities identified by the community.
Community-led research and sharing of experiences are built into Ashodaya Samithi’s operations from the outset, resulting in a number of high quality studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of sex worker-led community responses to HIV.
In 2007, Ashodaya Samithi is recognised by the Indian National Aids Control Organization (NACO) as a site of learning, and community leaders from around the country are sent to learn community-based responses to HIV.
Ashodaya Samithi also build relationships with police, media and politicians, leading to a major reduction in violence against sex workers, and the use of community friendly and respectful language in the media – which helps sex workers gain respect.