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Video: Sex Worker Organizing in India

Written By: Audacia Ray
April 7, 2010

 

Back in December we were excited to debut the above video, a short documentary about our partner SANGRAM and the collaborative work they do with sex workers in the rural south of India.

Here’s an excerpt about the project, from a feature that I wrote for RH Reality Check entitled Neither Victims Nor Voiceless: Sex Workers Speaking for Themselves:

In Sangli, I spent time with the staff and organizers of SANGRAM, which empowers individuals with the knowledge and tools they need to understand and claim their rights. SANGRAM was founded in 1992 to address the growing HIV infection rate in Sangli district, and they soon realized the value of mobilizing sex workers to become agents of change in fostering a sustainable and effective response to the epidemic. Today, one of the organization’s largest projects is a collective of 5,000 sex workers that manages a peer HIV prevention education and condom distribution program in Sangli. This collective also advocates to ensure equal access to health services and end violence and discrimination against sex workers. While many organizations train and bring in people from outside the community to help and support people in need (the social work model), SANGRAM operates under the principle that the only way to empower people is to provide them with the tools they need to claim their rights and facilitate change.

It was inspiring to meet the HIV-positive rural women, illiterate sex workers, and community health advocates who are working together to facilitate change in their communities. Many told me how for years, doctors in the local primary health centers refused to provide health services to sex workers or avoided touching them by giving them inoculations with extra long needles. With SANGRAM’s assistance, sex workers have been able to form alliances with some of the doctors and achieve a higher standard of care and respect. Their efforts have resulted in health system improvements that benefit the entire community: advocates have been successful in demanding that the primary health centers be functional, with trained staff, adequate supplies, and medicine.

In the past few months the video has gotten lots of great attention – it’s been watched online almost 12,000 times, and in just the last month had public screenings at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, Washington and The Tank in NYC preceding a panel called Sex Work and Human Rights: Feminist Advocacy Strategies.

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