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TRAINING 100 CBO LEADERS TO ENSURE AVAHAN PROGRAM SUSTAINABILITY

Phicus Leadership Capacity Building Case Study

In India, sex workers have been organized / have self-organized into Community Based Organizations (CBOs).  These organizations have played a pivotal role in spreading awareness on HIV /AIDS and are working to ensure basic rights, entitlements and fair representation for the sex worker community. The Gates Foundation has played a central role in India’s fight against HIV Aids through their Avahan programme.  In its final phase, Avahan’s focus was on sustainability – of the CBOs and thereby of the Sex Worker movement.

Key to the sustainable growth of the CBO are its leaders.  A strong, sustainable sex worker movement adapts to its ever changing environment while continuing to represent and serve the community effectively. Therefore, it is critical that leaders from the CBOs are adept at managing themselves, their organizations, their stakeholders and their communities.

With the Gates Foundation drawing its 15 year Avahan program (HIV/AIDS program) to a close in India, it was interested in building capability of leaders of these community based organizations.  The Foundation invited Phicus to design a program which would enable key leaders from these organizations to effectively manage themselves, influence their stakeholders, inspire and organize their communities and lead their organizations.

Phicus partnered with the Gates Foundation (Funding Partner) and CFAR - Centre For Advocacy and Research (technical support partner), to design, deliver and project manage the entire initiative for 94 leaders across 37 CBOs (community based organizations) across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

The implementation partners included CFAR, Ashodaya Academy, Swasti Health Resource Centre, HLFPPT and Alliance India.

4 key pillars formed the framework for the program:

  1. Managing Self: Anchored in a strong sense of self-worth, driven by a commitment to improve one’s quality of life

  2. Influence Stakeholders: Manage a complex array of stakeholders from family to policy makers

  3. Lead Organizations: Provide leadership to Sex Worker (SW) CBOs and Networks to champion SW rights

  4. Inspire and Organise Community: Mobilize the community to collective action for their own betterment


The leadership skills and attributes covered included - Vision; Courage; Learning; Perseverance; Belief in community; High impact communication; Influencing skills; Planning skills; Problem solving and decision making skills; Motivation skills; Stakeholder Management; Community engagement; Project management; Team leadership

  • The Pilot batch was designed and delivered by Phicus for 24 leaders from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over a 5 day duration

  • Drawing learnings from the pilot, the program was taken to scale across the other states in a 5 days + 5 days + 3 days format over a period of 6 months.  Both first and second line leaders of the CBOs went through the program – young second line leaders were the key audience for the program (SHAKTI), while the senior leaders were groomed to be mentors and coaches (SAKHIS) to the new cadre of leadership being built

  • The classroom sessions were interspersed with reinforcement of concepts through a missed call service; program participants could listen in through a missed call every week to key program messages along with tips and suggestions around topics such as health, hygiene, sanitation, nutrition, etc.

  • Individual journey mapping, identification of individual strengths and development, goals for community action and an individual action plan were key take-aways for the participants

  • A core group of senior community members from Ashodaya, a CBO of sex-workers, were trained as coaches, to visit and support the emerging new leaders with their action plans and community work

  • An on-ground tracking and application of the leadership concepts was further reinforced with the help of Swasti, a Phicus partner in this effort. The Swasti team of field officers were trained and deployed to meet with the participants every month to review assignments and provide feedback on progress.

  • 75% of the participants reported an increase in self-confidence and self-respect and felt they are able to overcome the stigma of their profession to some extent

  • 17% of the participants reported that guest talks by senior community members were inspiring and helped raise their confidence and self-belief

  • 25% participants reported that there was a shift in thinking at a personal level - increased focus on health, importance of saving for the future, setting a personal goal for themselves (like attending beautician course / learning data entry / becoming more literate etc.)

  • 40% of the participants reported that Jagriti's calls (missed call service) were helpful with respect to  reinforcing concepts on health and community needs and also reported having shared the message with others from their community

  • 64% of the participants demonstrated improved communication with stakeholders

  • 70% of the participants recognized the importance of planning and coordination and were applying the skill in their day to day lives

  • 50% of the participants reported that the positive reaction from the stakeholder led to an increase in their level of confidence and ability to engage with stakeholders

  • 75% of participants are actively engaged with their community members and working towards their benefit

  • 75% of the community members gained more trust in the participants and were willing to cooperate and work together

  • 65% of participants used the training material provided to them to share learnings with the community members who reacted positively to the content shared and expressed interest to learn more

  • 82% of participants shared that after the program, they are able to build more rapport with the community. Of this group, 28% shared that earlier they would never meet and conduct meetings with the community and that they are doing it now because of the stage that Shakti had provided them