Sahodaran

An overview

Introduction
Sahodaran, established in 1998, is the first Community Based
Organization in Chennai run by and for the MSM community. Sahodaran
works with MSM from low-income backgrounds that are at high risk for
HIV/AIDS, combining HIV/AIDS prevention and careservices with social
support, counseling, and crisis intervention. In addition to safeguarding
their health Sahodaran empowers MSM/TG community members to
become leaders in their own right, paving the way for greater social
recognition for sexual minorities nationwide. Although focused
primarily on MSM, since 2010, Sahodaran has fostered CBOs catering
to the needs of TGs (transgender women), and begun to serve as a
referral point for LGBT community members more broadly. We envision
a world where sexual minorities can access safe sexual health services,
legal support and social entitlements, and where atrocities against
sexual minorities are eliminated.

Our Approach
Sahodaran’sactivities are designed to address three core stages
of social change: empowering the individual, transforming social
attitudes, and fostering leaders from the MSM/TG community.

EMPOWER THE INDIVIDUAL
As a well-established center of community socialization with
multiple branches across the city, Sahodaranis often the first port of
call for young, low-income MSM (kothisin Tamil) and TGs in need of
psychosocial or healthcare support. We tailor our support services for
every MSM/TG/kothi based on their unique situation, offering a
combination of sexual health services, psychosocial support and
livelihood options.

Targeted Interventions (TI)
Through our TI and ‘Pehchan’ TI+ program, run with the
support of the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society, Sahodaran
offers a complete package of HIV/AIDS prevention and care
services. Thanks to our advocacy with both government and
private healthcare providers over the past 17 years, we offer
community members more respectful and supportive sexual
health services than if they were to approach hospitals directly.
Our services include:
 Identifying and reaching out to community members at
‘hot spots’ frequented by MSM for cruising and sex work;

TNSACS exhorted us to empower and mobilize MSM and TGs in impoverished areas of North Chennai. Approximately 10% of these members sought HIV/STI testing and services.  The Family Planning Association of India awarded us the “Best Grassroots Level Award” in 2014  We received a Solidarity award from the South India AIDS Action Programme for our work with Pehchan TI project in 2011  We received National AIDS Control Organization’s Red Ribbon Express Cultural Troupe Award in 2010 for our dance and theatre-based advocacy. alongwith preliminary diagnoses. we conduct an annual health camp at Sahodaran Unit I and II to provide free eye. and educating them about safer sex both individually and in groups.000 MSM through our peer educators and outreach workers.  Linking HIV positive individuals with ART dispensaries. between Sahodaran Unit I and II. and nutrition.  Distributing condoms.  We were recipients of “Best Civil Society Award” from UNAIDS in 2006.We were also asked to conduct counselors orientation and experience sharing for other NGOs implementing TIs for MSM.  Providing access to confidential STD testing services.  Referring them to community-friendly healthcare providers for treatment and care (for HIV/AIDS and other STDs).  The Royal Netherlands honored us for ‘Best Street Theatre’ in 2006. Recognizing our success in Central and South Chennai. Scale: In an average month we are approached by approximately 300 kothis that learn about our office through our outreach workers or through word of mouth.  Educating them about ART adherence. lube.  In addition to HIV/AIDS prevention and care. In 2014. we reached over 90. Our successes:  Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society honored Sahodaran in 2010 by awarding us a new project in North Chennai: Sahodaran Unit II.  Introducing them to community-friendly counselors for pre- test and post-test counseling. 1 . monitoring. dental and sugar checkups for community members.

The need for funding Our HIV/AIDS prevention and care services are the backbone of our organization. To remedy this situation. Funded:Our Drop In Center is funded as part of our TI project.  Between 1998 and 2003. to seek advice regarding personal crises. practice for an upcoming dance performance. it is necessary for us to increasingly draw on private foundations. and we provided counseling to 1584 new clients through our TI services. This makes our office a safe space where MSM can find relief from the stigma they encounter in the outside world. as part of our Targeted Interventions we operate a Drop-In Center six days a week where community members can come to socialize. or participate in ongoing events. however these funds are coming to a close in October 2015. seek help during crises. shame and stigma are some of the biggest obstacles for MSM trying to practice more health-seeking behaviors. Every afternoon. Scale: In 2014. Our Drop-In Center owes its vibrancy to the fact that we are completely managed and peopled by MSM community members.  Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society from 2008 to the present. and have been supported by a number of established national and international bodies since our inception.In order that this invaluable work with HIV/AIDS prevention and care continues.  USAID through Family Health International supported us from 2003-2006  The Tamil Nadu state AIDS Prevention and Control (APAC)from 2006-2008. our Drop In Center had 800 new visitors. or simply rest and watch a movie. 2 . Drop In Center AtSahodaranwe know that isolation. corporate donors and income generation efforts for our sustenance. the Department For International Development (DFID) supported our activities. Since Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control is planning to withdraw its support for TI projects in 2015. we are at risk of losing our primary source of support. our office is a riot of colour and laughter as kothis from across the city drop in for lunch.

family acceptance issues. and crises cases are handled within 24 hours. to discrimination within the family. creating a conducive environment for community members to realize their full potential. since homosexuality continues to be criminalized in India. and counselors to come to the best possible resolutions. One of our goals is to build our IGP potential. The majority of these deal with police and public harassment of sex workers and beggars. Our sensitization programs educate non-community members about gender. drawing on our network of community- friendly lawyers. we are continually engaged in crisis management. These crises are compounded by the fact that. to workplace discrimination. and to build our own reserve of unrestricted funds. doctors. and the diversity of sexual orientation. blackmail and extortion experienced by community members. Crisis Support Sahodaran operates a round-the-clock crisis hotline for members of sexual minorities. the office functions as an informal marketplace where MSM/TG people can come and sell their products to others within the community. and cultural performances done for a fee. through simple presentations and testimonials tailored to 3 . MSM cannotdirectly approach police. At Sahodaran. police. These include hand-sewn sari blouses. to educational institutions. sexuality. In addition. The goal of these interventions is to go beyond HIV/AIDS related services. These crises range from housing and landlord trouble. relationship-related issues and petty crimes related to theft. TRANSFORMING SOCIAL ATTITUDES Sahodaranworks to transform social attitudes. tounlawful police harassment. to depend less on external funding. The remaining crises focus on conflicts with healthcare providers. glass paintings. Funded: 2% of our funds from TI are allocated towards crisis management. Income Generation Programs To foster economic independence amongst MSM. Numbers:We handled a total of 188 crises cases in 2014. handbags and mobile phone covers. Sahodaran has initiated several income generation programs for community members to make and sell handmade products. as the majority of the community continues to be engaged in sex work and begging. to help MSM and other sexual minoritiesfight the routine violence and discrimination they face from society.

auto drivers and other local stakeholders can act as witnesses or sources of support. researchers. to advocacy for and state and national-level policy change. health-related. We establish contact with educational institutions by directly approaching faculty members. police personnel. since they represent the leaders of the future. auto drivers. through a family member that is sympathetic to their cause. we initiated the first sensitization program for jamath leaders(respected elders within the traditional transgender community). to help them provide better care and support to the kothis under their care. we conducted 11 sensitization programs with local stakeholders. Our modules also emphasize the legal. shopkeepers. At several hot spots. We also counsel MSM on how to better approach their families. and landlords We work to transform hot spots into community-friendly spaces by educating and sensitizing locals. auto drivers. Impressed by our success with police advocacy. During incidents of violence or harassment. by hosting 4 . from the home and surrounding locality. We fundraise through email and direct outreach to donors. we facilitate parental counseling to help parents accept and support their children’s sexual orientation. ticketed cultural events IN THE HOME AND THE LOCALITY Parents and jamath leaders At the level of the home.000 from TI. local flower-sellers and petty shopkeepers have agreed to stock free condoms to hand over to community members. STATE AND NATIONAL-LEVEL AWARENESS Students.the needs of each audience. In addition to tackling individual prejudices. through Sahodaran Unit I and II. Funded: Annually we get Rs. Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society selected Sahodaran to conduct police sensitization programs throughout the state of Tamil Nadu. reaching a total of 340 persons. such as landlords. 10. shop owners. and psychosocial challenges faced by community members. these programs build public support for LGBT rights and the decriminalization of homosexuality. and rowdies. Through our sister concern Thozhi. rather than remain silent bystanders. and educational institutions Sahodaran is continually engaged in efforts to educate and sensitize school and college students. Our programs aim to forge community friendly spaces at every level. In 2014. Received training for various module female partners of MSM & TG 2012 – especially Police.

and organizing public protests against transphobic 5 . We also invite student volunteers to participate in our dance and theatre programs. Our student sensitization workshops range from small informal meetings of 15-20 students within our office. We have built links with groups traditionally considered to be opposed to sexual rights. Sahodaran has been a member of Community Advisory Board at Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board. and partners of MSM/TG community members. pressuring the government to grant homes for 260 transgender women that were previously homeless. progressive media outlets. by honoring community-friendly celebrities.student researchers and interns. as well as with interfaith groups. to large-scale gender and sexuality programs targeting 500 students at a time. author of the recent Transgender Rights Bill passed unanimously in the RajyaSabha (upper house of Parliament) in 2015. sensitizing them about community issues and concerns. in return. to promote better acceptance of MSM within their families and in the society. Sahodaran’s sister concern Thozhi played an instrumental role in revitalizing the currently stagnant Transgender Welfare Board in Tamil Nadu. Nigeria and Japan. together with its sister CBO Thozhi. We have also hosted volunteers and researchers from other countries. religious groups Sahodaran maintains ongoing linkages with influential political and social figures such as community-friendly celebrities. has also played a key role in shaping media coverage of MSM/TG community members. and honoring them at events. In the past year. We draw on these community-friendly leaders for events and individual counseling. Uganda. Mr. young politicians. and by leveraging the family. and honored them with special achievement awards. identifying community- friendly leaders in key areas of the city. and 4-5 with religious leaders. including the United States. such as the Hindu Munnani and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. ‘Tiruchy’ Siva. On average we hold 2 sensitization meetings a year with political leaders. friends. several schools and colleges in our network have invited MSM/TG community members to be chief guests. and religious leaders. Sahodaran also conducted two sensitization programs last year for young politicians and councilors. since 2008. Political leaders. Sahodaran also works closely with religious groups and leaders. Media advocacy Sahodaran. consulted representatives of Sahodaran and its sister concerns in drafting the provisions.

 Since 2007. in 2015. and offering the Drop In Center as a space for planning meetings and poster making. PuthiyaThalaimurai and PuthuYugam.Thozhi also pioneered the first large-scale protest about the portrayal of transgender women in Tamil cinema. Pothigai. Boston. while volunteering for the organization in return.  Sahodaran is also a regular destination for research students from undergraduate and graduate programs in India and abroad. Sahodaran partners with fifteen other CBOs and NGOs across the state to organize large-scale events advocating for sexuality rights and the decriminalization of homosexuality. leveraging contacts to mobilize funds. Chennai.  Since our inception we have partnered with the Center for Sexuality and Health Research Policy (C-SHARP) about stigma and discrimination faced byHIV-affected MSM. Chennai and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) institute for a research study about HIV/AIDS prevalence and depression amongst MSM. Research Sahodaran has become a key nodal point for MSM-based research conducted in Tamil Nadu. we have partnered with the Tuberculosis Research Center. Community members from Sahodaran have participated in talk shows and panels debating various policy shifts regarding sexual and gender minorities.and homophobic portrayals in cinema. Sahodaran facilitates the events of Pride Month by mobilizing community members and students to participate. Advocacy for decriminalization of homosexuality As a key member of the Tamil Nadu Rainbow Coalition since 2008. that collect data from Sahodaran’s community populations. We also serve as a member of the Community Advisory Board at the Tuberculosis Research Centre. Cultural festivals and traditional gatherings We honor the various cultural backgrounds of our community members by celebrating all festivals at our Drop In 6 . and Fenway Institute.  Other collaborators include YRG Care. The most visible of these is the annual Pride Month in Chennai which takes place during June of every year. Members of Sahodaran’s cultural troupe have performed on established television channels including Doordarshan. thanks to its success in mobilizing community members.

 Thozhi has supported income generation programs enabling transgender women to make handmade mobile pouches. The specific focus of these CBOs is detailed below: Thozhi Thozhi is a CBO run by and for young. We regularly participate at the annual celebrations at the Koovakkam festival south of Chennai. dynamic TG womenbased in South and Central Chennai. and Diwali. and has twice (2013 and 2015) received the ‘Best Stall’ award from the Women’s Self Help Group Annual Fair held in Chennai. reaching out to mobilize transgender women and educate them about HIV/AIDS prevention and care.  Thozhi has also pioneered innovative programs within the transgender community. ranging from sexual health to crisis management. We also honor special festivals focusing on the transgender community. aiming to provide holistic support for members of the TG community. handbags and jewellery. Thozhi was initially supported entirely by the savings of community members themselves.  Thozhi has actively advocated for the Tamil Nadu State Government to revitalize the stagnant Transgender Welfare Board and implement the provisions of the Supreme Court judgment of 2014 recognizing transgender rights.  Since 2014. An incubator for community leadership. Thozhi’s efforts were rewarded in 2015 when the State Government finally granted 260 free homes to poor. where we receive small grants from TNSACS to put on dance and educational theatre events. Established in 2010 and registered in 2012. FOSTER COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP The key to our success thus far has been the fact that we are run by and for the MSM community. Center. homeless transgender women. livelihood and social entitlements. including Pongal. Thozhi has implemented the Pehchan Pre-TI project from the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society. Sahodaran has fostered four new CBOs that work with LGBTs. Onam. including a sensitization program for jamath leaders (elders within the traditional 7 . Our cultural troupe of dancers and theatre artists provides a platform for the community to showcase their talents in addition to helping generate income. based in religious myths and legends sanctioning transgender identity. with Technical Support from Sahodaran Unit I. MSM and TGs.

ITI (Indian Transgender Initiative) The India Transgender Initiative is a CBO established in 2012 and registered in 2013. with Technical Support from Sahodaran Unit II. Snegithi’s efforts have been geared more towards securing the basic needs of slum-dwelling transgender women. as well as in annual festivals in Koovakkam. transgender/thirunangai community) about surgery operations and care and support for their HIV-affected mentees. based in Thirupathur in Vellore district. and a large-scale public protest criticizing the negative portrayal of transgender women in Tamil cinema. rural area dwellers about sexuality and human rights. This program was aimed at slowly developing in North Chennai the kind of awareness and sensitization that transgender women enjoy in more cosmopolitan areas of the city such as Central Chennai.S. a sports meet for transgender women. that focuses on creating platforms for transgender women to sensitize the public about their needs through dance. theatre and debate. supported by the U. Snegithi also conducted a large-scale sensitization program for over 500 college-going youth in North Chennai (June 2015).  Since February 2015. Snegithi has been actively advocating with the Ministry of Social Welfare to intervene in a housing crisis in North Chennai where over 50 transgender women were forcibly evicted from their residences. such as housing and intervention during police crises. Thozhan Established in 2012 and registered in 2014. Snegithi is run by and for the TG community in North Chennai. Thozhan conducts outreach to LGBT community members more generally. Madurai. ITI facilitates the inclusion of transgender women’s performances in major television programs. and focuses on sensitizing poor.  In collaboration with Chennai Rainbow Pride Month. and Kothattai. Consulate in Chennai. Snegithi Established in 2012 and registered in 2014.Thozhan is a nascent initiative for LGBT rights. Salem. 8 . Working in an extremely impoverished area.