Shifting paradigms: institutionalizing community based organizations (CBOs) of female sex workers (FSWs) and MSMs in Kerala, India

Published: July 18, 2010

Shifting paradigms: institutionalizing community based organizations (CBOs) of female sex workers (FSWs) and men having sex with men (MSMs) in Kerala, India

T.O. Lukka1, P.J. Dennis2, T.D. Rajeenald3, R. Vimal3, K.B. Sudheer3

1APAC-VHS, Techinical Support Unit, Kottayam, India, 2KSACS, Targetted Intervention, Trivandrum, India, 3APAC-VHS, Technical Support Unit, Trivandrum, India

Issues: Community Based Organizations (CBOs) play a pivotal role in facilitating and sustaining behavior change among FSWs and MSMs. Low educational level, unawareness about fundamental rights and statutes and inability to build up structures, systems and linkages obstruct the growth of CBOs.

Description: During June 2008 to September 2009, Kerala State AIDS Control Society implemented a programme for strengthening of CBOs, aimed at institutionalization and strengthening of the 10 CBOs in the state.

The programme comprised of:

  • creation and dissemination of a manual highlighting administrative procedures, structural mechanisms and milestones;
  • hands-on support for preparing profiles brochures and annual reports;
  • coordination of a peer leaders conference for mutual experience-sharing and learning;
  • aid in systems building and standard procedures for decision making, staff selection and fund raising;
  • assistance for democratic election of office bearers;-support in need-based capacity building, developing linkages and collaboration with other entities.

Lessons learned: Observed positive outcomes of these initiatives are:

  • all 10 CBOs are now legal entities adhering to official statutes and Acts and have independent offices and document keeping;
  • membership in CBOs increased from 900 to 2200 active members and 5000 associate members;
  • all CBO projects secured the highest grade in the annual evaluation conducted by National AIDS Control Organisation;
  • 43 FSWs/MSMs are employed in 10 CBO projects compared to 21 in 42 non-CBO projects;
  • Democratic elections replaced weak leadership and proactive community leaders took over, of whom 250 are FSWs and MSMs.
  • CBOs raised 10 million Indian Rupees from non-HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.
  • number of FSWs/MSMs filing legal complaints to redress grievance has increased from 6 in 2008 to 67 in 2009.

Next steps: Strengthening CBOs is a viable approach for building up sustainable programmes especially among marginalised groups. Adopting structured mechanisms with quantifiable milestones is recommended.

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