In the face of depleted funding, Aastha Parivaar’s CBOs are finding innovative ways to finance their outreach
Aastha Parivaar started out as the Aastha Project; part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; through which they received ample funding for sex worker and HIV outreach. Once the project ended, it became Aastha Parivaar; a federation of 13 community based organisations (CBOs) run by sex workers for sex workers, united under a secretariat. The secretariat provides administrative and some financial support to the CBOs, but ultimately each CBO is responsible for sourcing sufficient funds to support its community.
Funding is a sensitive subject for any NGO, however organisations that care for sex workers and people living with HIV are often faced with the most adversity. This is due to the taboo and prejudices surrounding this profession and disease. In India, the funding available for NGOs is spread more thinly than most, with no funding available for sex workers or HIV treatment; antiretroviral therapy (A.R.T).
The Aastha Parivaar CBO based in Bhiwandi, Mumbai, has taken a particularly innovative approach to raising funds to support the women and children in its vulnerable community. Aasha, a CBO member and Treasurer of the Aastha Parivaar Managing Committee, undertakes a range of handcraft projects to sell. In winter, she makes clothes for newborns which she sells to hospitals and year round she makes noodles which she sells at markets. All profits made go directly back to the CBO.
In order to continue to improve the support they offer to their community in Bhiwandi, the CBO is in the process of working with a wholesaler to open their own community-run bulk foods store. They will purchase goods such as lentils, chickpeas, dried fruit, spices and more, which they will sell from their Bhiwandi premises at a slight margin. They hope to have the store up and running this year as a sustainable method of generating funds for the CBO.
Other CBOs are taking a similar approach. Aasha Darpan/Aastha Parivaar Unit 2, based in Grant Road in Mumbai, have formed a collaboration with Durex, where they buy condoms at wholesale and sell them for retail price. Vishwas Sehat Mahila Mandal, based in Malvani, have a similar project, but instead buy agarbatti (incense), sanitary pads, chocolate and candles at wholesale to resell. Additionally, a CBO staff member fills Mehndi cones with henna which she sells at the local markets. All profits made from these ventures go directly each CBO’s outreach work.
The most efficient way for Aastha Parivaar’s reach and support to improve would be to have a constant source of funding, however this is most likely unrealistic. Each Aastha Parivaar CBO therefore works tireless to generate new ways of sustainable income to be able to continue their vulnerable communities.