Elections in sex worker CBOs : Celebrating togetherness, demonstrating democracy

Recently, I was part of the general elections of the sex worker CBOs in five districts in Karnataka. The experience showed me once again, just how much these communities have been able to come together, accept each other as 'us' as part of a family, and want to be there for each other. In one of the districts, the event was so festive as to resemble a family function, and the women used it as an opportunity to get back in touch with each other, and celebrate being together. The women told me how, in their journey with the CBO, they had seen each other, as women, and looked beyond religion, caste or geographical location, which usually determined most of their friends and companions. They were surprised at the way their interactions had so naturally and effortlessly transcended these barriers, and they visited homes of people, they never even would have met previously.

This was also a shining example of democracy at its best in the grassroots. This is the third year of existence for the CBOs, and the women have had time to assess capacities of their representatives. They were called to account for the achievements and lapses, and their votes reflected their levels of satisfaction. Yet, even more inspiring was the sight of a leader, who lost the election, but who was gracious to the end, fully involved in managing the event, and finally handing over to the new leader.

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Comment by Divya Sarma on August 6, 2010 at 2:20pm
From my own albeit limited interactions with the women, I was stuck by the 'we' and 'us' feeling in them. There is a strong sense of commitment to their group, they greatly value all that they have received from the group, togetherness, a place to share their joys and sorrows, and the conviction that there are people who care for them, and who will support them. The CBO is a formal structure in which this is expressed.
Comment by Gaston on August 5, 2010 at 7:42am
Bheri, very interesting sharing. What do you think was crucial in getting these groups together in the first place? What allowed them to reveal their strengths in these different areas through the CBO?

Thanks, Gaston
Comment by Sanghamitra Iyengar on August 4, 2010 at 10:42am
Bheri, thank you for sharing this. It is a great illustration of how the women are setting an example of fair and free elections and meaningful democratic processes
Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on August 2, 2010 at 1:53pm
Dear Bheri,

Thanks for posting this blog. Its inspiring to see how these group of women, often marginalized and stigmatized, were able to leverage their strengths. Have they done self-assessment? I am sure they would have made great strides.

Just one question. Are the younger women in sex work able to take out time for leading the group or it is the older age group who take up electoral posts?

Warm regards,



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