BEAUTY MEETS QUALITY; THE QUALITY OF INTERVENTION AMONG FEMALE SEX WORKERS AND THEIR BEHAVIOR CHANGE

Consciousness of one’s body and beauty plays a great role in developing self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence that, essential elements for socialization of an individual. Jawahar Suraksha Project, Alappuzha realized this fact from their experience. They witnessed how increased beauty consciousness helps the female sex workers in changing their behavior from unsafe sex practices to safe sex practices. Jawahar is running a beauty parlor exclusively for female sex workers in their Drop in Centre (DIC).

The very idea to start beauty parlor was emanated from a large mirror installed in the Drop-in-Centre (DIC) by the project to dress up the female sex workers. The project team observed that the mirror became the change agent for their personality, especially in their appearance. It also observed that the changed appearance developed a kind of confidence among them.

Realizing this, the project started a beauty parlor with the support of a beautician having beauty clinics in the district. The project provides free space and necessary basic infrastructure in the DIC for beauty parlor and the beautician offers up to fifty percent reduction in the charges for her services to the stakeholders. The project strived hard to find such a likeminded beautician, who helped the project in starting a beauty parlor with low investment for items like a mirror, chair and a table.

The beauty parlor provides quality services like hairdressing, facials, and manicures to the stakeholders at a reasonable and affordable rate. Periodically it conducts programmes to educate the ignorant and illiterate female sex workers about beauty and hygiene. Motivation from the project team and experience sharing of the benefited stakeholders attracts a good number of female sex workers, especially youngsters to avail the services of the clinic conducted every Wednesday.

Jawahar Suraksha Project believes that self-consciousness on body and beauty of a female sex worker will definitely enhance her self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence. This will boost the speed of socialization process of female sex workers to lead their life as normal as possible. The increased self-confidence augments their negotiation skill for safe sex. The improved self-respect creates an attitude among them to protect their body and health from illnesses and abuses. This positive attitude has obviously resulted in increased health seeking behavior and hygiene practices of the female sex workers in the district which the project demonstrates with evidence. The client preferences of the sex workers who availed the services of the beauty parlor have changed and their demand in the sex circuit has hiked due to their improved appearance.

The change brought about by the beauty clinic is more visible among the street based sex workers who left their shabby appearance and life style. It was observed that several of such beneficiaries of the beauty parlor changed their operation strategy from street to mobile phones and it in turn supports the behavior change process. The changed modus operandi causes reduction in their client volume but at the same time able to demand more money for sex due to improved confidence and negotiation skills that indeed avoids low-class alcoholic clients. The hygiene classes arranged by the beauty parlor explain condom usage as a practice for sexual hygiene.

‘I thank all my peers and the project team who have lent a hand to me in understanding my worthiness as a human being and shun all my inferiority complex. Now, I understand the grandeur of my body and life, and feel myself as worthy to the society. I won’t spoil my life in the street. I want to enjoy this one and only life as I can. Now I am not living on the street but in a rented house. I will purchase a house soon from my increased income. Now I am careful about my body and health. I learned to wear dresses neatly and visiting the beauty parlor regularly to maintain my comeliness. I use condom for preventing STI and HIV/AIDS.’ a 27 year old female sex worker from Alappuzha says confidently.

The Project recounts the beauty parlor as one of the best strategies to maintain regular contact with young female sex workers. The motivated young sex workers visit the DIC every week to avail the services of the beauty parlor. The increased regular attendance in the DIC offers ample space to provide necessary sexual health services to them on time.

The project is now planning to train some talented and interested CBO members in beauty technique. With the help of such trained community members, the project intends to regularize the activities of the beauty parlor in the DIC.

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BEST PRACTICE DOCUMENTATION UNIT
IEC DIVISION, KERALA STATE AIDS CONTROL SOCIETY
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA
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Management Support by:
Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT)
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Comment by Gaston on September 2, 2010 at 7:47am
Great story and well shared. I will share this example with others.
Comment by lesley on July 19, 2010 at 12:05pm
What a wonderful article. It's no secret that women spend an awful lot of time on their beauty, but to see it in this context is uplifting. Linking aesthetics with HIV awareness and learning about safer-sex practices is a gentle and brilliant way to connect.

Every woman deserves to feel safe and beautiful.

Thanks for your work.
Comment by Shk. Rashid Muyingo on July 13, 2010 at 10:24am
Sooooooo wonderful, thank you for sharing with us
Comment by Laurence Gilliot on July 13, 2010 at 7:42am
Interesting example of how to build our self-esteem. The beauty parlor helps the girls to reconnect to their own beauty, their own inner light and dignity. We are often our toughest judge :-)

I once heard someone say about the men in Phayao, this province in Northern Thailand that drastically reduced its HIV prevalence: "Men in Phayao probably love themselves more than other men in Thailand." Respecting yourself and loving life can be a factor that pushes us to be careful in what we do.

I believe that we can overcome HIV only through love. Self-love and love & understanding of our beloved ones.

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