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Advocacy & Social Mobilization : An Innovative Experience

Social mobilization is always backed by lot of support ,knowledge & capacity building , advocacy which leads to empowerment of the community .
I would like to share one of my experience with an NGO Guria , Varanasi (U.P) , India which works for child trafficking and women in prostitution .

Varanasi is considered as the Holiest cities among all the Hindus globally , beside this the city is having a continuous history of more than 5000 years which makes it oldest living city in the world .
The Indian society is very traditional and when we are talking about Varanasi talking sex , prostitution & AIDS on public platforms can lead one into serious troubles .

Guria did a very innovative act of connecting the society with WIP ( Women In Prostitution) , the WIP are trained in the traditional singing and dancing forms for which they were highly recognized and respected in society during the pre-independence era . But with the changing time and coming of modern entertainment forms their role was confined to sexual services .

Guria formed a group of these WIP who were also good at performing traditional singing and dance from all across the country . They are have participants from 6 Indian states and 25 districts . A big event 'Pearls of Love' was rolled out to show case the art and the talent of these marginalized section of the society . Efforts were done to main stream the WIPs .
The event was organised in Varanasi on the bank of river Ganges (the most sacred place for Hindus) . Many celebrities , local administration and people from politics were invited and attended the event . The event was covered by National and International media like BBC .

The WIP who are living a life where they are not having any interaction with the main society except their clients got such a warm appreciation from all the audience . The event led to breaking of several myths which the society was having about WIP. And when we talk about how WIP or the Performers felt about the event they didn't had the words to express their happiness . Now pearls of Love has become an annual event by Guria and is rolling successfully .

You may watch the video of 'Pearls of Love' at :

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Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 14, 2010 at 9:23pm
Abhinav, great blog. Thanks.

Piermont, thanks for this wonderful reflection.

Would like to share examples of where Sex workers are called upon by others for their capacity, for their skills. I was with Jean Louis and SIAAP team in Nagercoil on a community visit with sex workers. Sex workers shared how they are invited by NGOs to take training sessions on condom demonstration, how they are invited by the police to settle village disputes. Amazing!

Durbar Mahila SamanvayaCommittee (DMSC) is a collective of 65,000 sex workers in Eastern India. In a visioning session with DMSC senior staff I found something very striking. They want to mobilise other communities like fishermen, tribals etc so that they can take charge of their issues. Why do you want to help other communities, what you will get out of it, I asked them. They responded we want to help them to realise their strengths, we want to start a movement.
Comment by John Piermont Montilla on August 14, 2010 at 8:19pm
Wow! thanks for posting this experience.

Advocacy and social mobilization is one of the twin components I like to work most especially when linked to empowerment of the WIP community. Imagine WIP among other communities are empowered to be engaged in advocacy to influence decision-makers and law makers to create laws that are informed of their real lives situations and through social mobilization obtaining the trust of the public that indeed they can also make a difference in their lives not just as prostitutes but also as nation-builders in their own little capacities.

Last conference in Vienna, organizations who are against "sex work" seems to be loosing their significant voice while organizations promoting "sex work" as work seemed to be getting nosier and core messages of human dignity in their advocacy seemingly absent. I felt good of the diversity of the conference but I feel sad of the hopes and aspirations that needs to be rediscovered and rebuilt.

Indeed, empowerment + meaningful participation in advocacy and social mobilization opens a doorway for opportunities for prostituted women for alternative non-exploitative work as well as reducing the stigma of the mainstream society associated with their work through performances of their hidden talents in avenues of sensitivities like worship and culture.

Thank you for sharing.

Btw, WIP? is more sensitive than "sex workers" but I prefer for my own use "prostituted women" and I salute your sensitivity sir. I hoe that as days pass by, our labels will come to a point that human dignity will be the center of all response to any issue of life concerns.

Thank you once again


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