The first ever study undertaken on sex workers and transgenders’ access to various government welfare schemes in East Godavari district revealed that there is a deep rooted prejudice against the community and the resultant stigma and discrimination coupled with the community’s own lack of knowledge are key bottlenecks in accessing the benefits of welfare schemes.
The survey was conducted by five community based organisations (CBOs) in East Godavari district with 443 respondents of five major schemes and entitlements like Aadhar card, pension, education, housing and the Self Help Group scheme being implemented by the government.
The five CBOs which conducted the survey are Nari Saksham (Rajahmundry), Velugu Rekha Mahila Mandali (Kakinada), WISE (Peddapuram), Udaya Rekha Mahila Mandali (Tuni) and Aasha Jyothi Mahila Sangham (Amalapuram), supported by the Centre for Advocacy and Research in collaboration with Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (APSACS) and Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT).
The CBOs acted as a bridge between sex workers and service providers.
Sex workers from five different CBOs in East Godavari have completed a survey to understand the extent of exclusion or inclusion of the community in key development schemes and programmes of the state government. The survey report titled ‘Tracing the Process of Social Inclusion in East Godavari: Evidence from the Ground’ was released by the planning commission member, Syeda Hameed in the city on Saturday.
Of the schemes explored by the community researchers, only the Aadhar card scheme was found to be highly engaging and well recognised by the community. 98 percent of the respondents knew the benefits of Aadhar, where most had applied for it and got their cards.
However, the survey reveals that on pension, education, housing and SHG, the community loses out largely on account of illiteracy, lack of knowledge, stigmatising attitudes and the insensitivity of the system to facilitate any access.
Of the 443 surveyed with regards to pension, only 12 percent (55) respondents reportedly benefited. Of the 385 (87 percent) who have never availed any benefit under a pension scheme, 153 did not even know that such a scheme exists. The survey further reveals that while a few respondents were persons with disabilities, none had availed the disability pension.
Close to half the respondents (49 percent) knew about one or another education scheme. However, 62 percent have not benefited from the scheme so far. The survey thus records only a peripheral inclusion when it comes to education.
While a majority of the community members perceived housing as a high priority, about 30 percent of the respondents did not know about any housing scheme and a meager 2 percent knew about the provision of housing loans. Similar is the case with the SHG scheme wherein 93 percent of the respondents knew about the scheme, with only 30 percent having availed it indicating a wide gap between awareness and access, said programme manager of HLFPPT, K Dolly.
“It is our first evidence-based step towards demanding an effective inclusion in the development planning. We will use it for dialoging with policy and decision-makers and mandating a social audit on the quality and delivery of services for the marginalised populations”, said Mahalaxmi, a community spokesperson from East Godavari.
The study was inspired by an interaction that a delegation of sex workers from six states including Andhra Pradesh had with planning commission member, Syeda Hameed during the Civil Society Consultation in November 2010 held as a prelude to the drafting of the approach paper of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).
The 12th Five Year Plan provides a road map for inclusion with the onus on state governments to execute their programmes in such a manner that sex workers and other marginalised groups also feel part of all schemes and welfare programmes.