Guwahati, Feb.8 : Sex workers in Guwahati have formed self-help groups under the aegis of an organisation named Sakhi (a friend) that enables them to be self-reliant by engaging in income generating activities.
For the past few years, many sex workers here have been making attempt to lead a decent lifestyle despite the success ratio not being very promising. Thanks to the several voluntary efforts, several sex workers are today rehabilitated in some way or the other here.
In Guwahati, an NGO named AIDS Prevention Society has facilitated better days for many sex workers in Guwahati by forming self-help groups (SHGs) project named Sakhi (a friend). Thanks to the initiative, many sex workers are now leading a relatively decent life. Sakhi has trained sex workers in starting self-help groups.
"First when we encountered a lot of sex workers in the city, we found that they have such a low esteem about themselves and health seeking was a remote thinking in their minds. But we knew that we have to bring them to the mainstream of seeking health first," said S. H. Ahmed, Director, AIDS Prevention Society.
"So, we started educating them how their health is so very important for their own profession. Gradually, we started asking them to come to the health centers and we created cadres of peer educators among them, especially to highlight why health seeking and treatment of illness at an early stage is so very important for them for the prevention of HIV," Ahmed added.
As members of the Sakhi self-help groups, these former sex workers have learnt productive vocations like designing candles, making detergent powder and file covers among others.
Even though, these workers have to share a part of their income with the group, they are happy to be a part of a more respectable living.
These women members were imparted training in manufacturing of detergents and candles and given certificates of proficiency so that they could get a loan and start a small industry.
"Here all the sex workers have opened a self-help group and all are bringing the sex workers here. The sex workers are supporting us with money from rupees 50 to rupees 100, whatever they can. And whatever help they need, we are ready to provide them, so that they are away from the sex profession. We have completed our work and are hoping to succeed with our enhancement. We have five to seven groups and each group has 50 members," said Shehnaz Akhtara, one of the women working in the self-help group.
The project Sakhi was launched way back in 2000, and it has spread to other parts of the region.
"We started the project Sakhi in 2000 and it is going strong. In October 2006, we created self-help group amongst health workers. Then we encouraged them towards income generation activities. Then they started making candles and detergent powder, for which we gave them the required training," said Asif Ahmed, Project Coordinator, Sakhi.
"I am happy to come here. We are making candles, detergent powders and file covers. We are learning a lot here," said Priyanka, another member Sakhi, SHG.
These women have become peer educators and are giving lectures on health and HIV AIDS. They wish to bring in more and more such women into the main stream and also educate them primarily towards health awareness programmes. By Peter Alex Todd