Bridging the divide for sex workers

Lalita Balappa, who represents the Shakti AIDS Prevention Sangam, a sex workers’ collective in Belgaum district in Karnataka, had to wait for hours to meet government officials in the past. Now after a pilot project to implement a single-window system got under way, she finds that the officials are no longer evasive.

Ms. Balappa, who was in the national capital to attend the first National Round Table organised by the National Forum for Action on Convergence (NFAC) on Monday, told The Hindu that her community-based organisation had organised pension adalats for sex workers and secured Aadhaar cards for many of them.

“We used government schemes to start sewing classes for women and we work with officials of different departments to ensure that women are not given the runaround,” she said.

Ms. Balappa said single-window offices were opened exclusively for sex workers who were deprived of entitlements, in nine taluks in Belgaum district.“The system ensures that even the last person in our community has a ration card, an Aadhaar card, a bank account or the documents required to apply for loans or housing,” she said.

In Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh, the Shakti Mahila Sangam has been making progress in securing rights for sex workers. K. Shamshad of the organisation says the Varadhi (bridge), or single-window project, launched this January brought the women in touch with 13 government departments.

Earlier, these women had to suffer scorn and no one entertained their requests. “I have now applied for housing and a loan since I have documents such as the Aadhaar card and the ration card,” she said.

After Varadhi was launched, 240 sex workers in Dharmavaram got Aadhaar cards. The project works in six taluks of Anantapur district and the major change is that the government officials now come to meet the women and simplify procedures.

After the government launched the National Mission for Empowerment of Women with a segment on vulnerable and marginalised women, the single-window pilot project got under way in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Manipur in 2012, with technical support from the Centre for Advocacy and Research.

The National Round Table brought together stakeholders and community groups that had established “single windows” at the district, sub-district and village levels to ensure convergence schemes and programmes in the past five years. NFAC convener Rashmi Singh spoke of how the Delhi government had adapted the Kudumbsree experiment, which began in rural Kerala, to address the concerns of its urban poor.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 5:22:42 PM |

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