In a community where women are seen as inferior to men, and discrimination is common and hardly ever condemned, so is the attitude and treatment towards homosexuality in India. ‘PROJECT AASHA’ is a targeted intervention program, dealing with Sexual Health concerns, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS. In this smaller-scale project, we hope to raise awareness of STIs/HIV/ AIDS, contraception and birth control, not only for our women and girls, but the entire community, initially focusing on high-risk groups (predominately MSM).
Through weekly workshops on Sexual health, Team-building exercise, Sexual education, group and one-to-one counseling and Q&A sessions, we hope to not only eliminate the taboo of STIs/HIV/AIDS, but also empower a group of people that have been banished from society, and give them a chance to congregate and feel comfortable and free to be themselves, surrounded by people who will not only not judge them, but welcome them.
In future we hope to expand this project so that there can be a drop-in centre for anyone in the community to come to, so they can talk about any sexual concerns they have. As STIs/STDs are often linked with infidelity in India and have become quite taboo subjects, this centre is completely necessary if we are to try and prevent these fast-spreading diseases. We will also provide STI/HIV testing when necessary.
So far, project Aasha has been a huge success with its participants. Not only are they asking questions and responding to advice and workshops, but they are bringing their friends, and praising and thanking Sambhali for this chance to not only learn, but for the non-judgmental environment which we have created in which they can learn and benefit from project Aasha.
This project is Sambhali Trust’s first mission that is venturing away from Women’s Rights. Essentially, though, it is still dealing with the prevalence of inequality and discrimination in India, merely in a different minority group. Although the Sambhali women and girls will benefit greatly from this drop-in centre, we will be able to help a whole new spectrum of unrepresented people in Jodhpur to the many who Sambhali has already helped. As we expand and progress as a charity, this is a natural next step, and appeal to our present donors to accept and embrace project AASHA. ‘Aasha’, meaning ‘hope’, is just that to its participants: a hope for a better, risk-free and easier future.