Saheli Sangh as the only sex worker’s collective in Pune is working with need based approach since its initiation. The main themes of our work are, HIV AIDS Prevention & control, physical and mental health ,SRHR, Legal literacy and aid, Demand for Decriminalization of sex work and sex workers and prevention of trafficking, Child care & protection, education, skills building and advocacy


Project Maitra

skills development and vocational training for sex workers and their children supported by Villo Poonawala Foundation
Our latest project Maitra works primarily with children of women in sex work . The goal is to safeguard Child Rights, health and education in this marginalized population. Through Maitra we support the children and young adults’ educational and skill development needs, provide social support with the aim of their integration into the mainstream.

We support the young children in their school admissions and throughout their education. We also work with older children who are young adults, in linking them with vocational skill development courses and organisations providing support in setting up small businesses.

Education cannot be a standalone support and the children need a protective environment with safe and healthy living conditions. Thus, we work with the Child Welfare Committee to help the young children get admitted into child care institutions. This ensures their education along with safety and security.

Similarly, we network and correspond with the Department of Women and Child Development to avail the suitable schemes/benefits for the children and their mothers. This also ensures sensitization and protective measures of protection of child rights with the marginalized and at risk population of children of women in sex work.

Under Maitra, we provide mental health counselling to children, including young children, teenagers and young adults. We extend these mental health services to the mothers of children and other women in sex work as well. Our mental health approach is trauma informed, rights based and focuses on empowerment. The counselling is needs based and accessible to everyone in the community.

We also aim at providing a 24 hour care of for children of working women who are in sex work. The care home will provide a safe space and environment suitable for the holistic development of these children.

Hello Sathi Project

‘Saheli’ is working with ‘Uninhibited’ since June 2021. The “Hello Sathi” project works on the menstrual and sexual reproductive Telehealth helpline for free. In September, trials for the helpline were required as some changes need to be done according to the Budhwar Peth (red light area in Pune). Pre and post-surveys were planned to check the results and impact of this Telehealth helpline. The baseline survey of 100 women was performed with a questionnaire of 50 questions related to sexual health and hygiene.

For promotion and awareness of the helpline, the pamphlet was made along with the directions for different kinds of services available on the helpline including a monthly monitoring chart of the menstrual cycle. This pamphlet was distributed door to door for each person. A demonstration call was dialled to ensure a complete understanding of the working pattern of the helpline. Every woman who is her reproductive age was explained about entering her menstrual cycle’s bleeding days on the chart by the recommended signs for bleeding flow during period days.

This helpline is available in 4 different languages 1) Hindi, 2) Kannada, 3) Tamil and 4) Marathi and even the gender can be selected for further continuation of the call. Here we can get any home-based remedies if the problems are curable with these remedies. If not, then an appointment is arranged with the gynaecologist on call. Along with this, every Sunday and Wednesday they get a call at the time chosen by them, in their selected language where a story is told on the subjects related to sexual and reproductive health and hygiene.

More than 360 people are taking benefit of this helpline. Females of reproductive age who are familiar with technology, gadgets and social media are using the helpline easily. As they know they can save the fees for doctors, transport charges, and time and won’t feel shy to talk on call. But those who are not so familiar with the technology need assistance. For this help, peer educators are well-trained to do so.

Advocacy to improve access for Female Sex Workers to comprehensive and non-discriminatory legal and healthcare services

SRHR Project for women in sex work (In collaboration with SANGAMA(Karnataka), SIAAP- South India AIDS Action Plan-Tamil Nādu, Supported by Amplify change (UK)

Project Description-
India has nearly ten million female sex workers (FSWs). Sex work is not illegal but the current law (Immoral Traffic
Prevention Act) criminalizes related activities, with devastating consequences. We have found that the intransigent
stigma and discrimination of sex workers is a major barrier to their access to public SRH services, especially for abortion
and contraception, intimate partner violence (IPV) and mental health. This has become even more difficult with the pandemic crisis.
1) Growing a stronger SRHR movement by empowering sex workers to advocate as a community
– Capacity building of sex workers for collective advocacy
– Cross-learning advocacy initiatives between SW and non-SW collectives
– Continuing to build leadership for SRHR through peer leader training
– Establishing sex worker community-based crisis response teams

2) Improving access to comprehensive SRH and well-being services and information through policy and community advocacy
Advocating at state level for the acceptance of the SW-sensitive SRH service guidelines we developed in our current project
Facilitating acceptance of the SW-sensitive SRH service guidelines to be embedded in state and regional health facilities
– SRHR Education among FSWs on safer sex in the context of COVID-19

3) Organisational strengthening to enhance the effectiveness of the coalition, particularly in the COVID-19 context
– Establishing Online platforms for outreach and advocacy, and trialling same within the SW community
– Establishing Online Financial and Human resource management systems
– Developing policies and procedures on: Financial and Legal compliance, safeguarding staff well-being, and online safety
– Developing Fundraising and Communications skills and capacity of coalition members

4) Generating evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on SRHR in the SW community
– Collecting, analysing and disseminating data on the impact of Covid-19 on SWs
– Developing narratives on this impact for advocacy, sharing and policy development
– Using evidence to push for the inclusion of SWs in COVID-19 prevention and relief measures

Covid 19 Relief work-
Since March 2020, everyone’s daily lives have taken a turn and have not yet returned to normal. The women in sex work are the part of the marginalized group that suffered the worse.

The women lost their work and their income overnight and are still struggling financially. A lot of children of our women stay in hostels and child care institutions. All these children were suddenly sent back home and have been staying with their mothers in brothels since.

The financial difficulties rendered a lot of women out of basic ration and necessary items in their kitchens. A lot of women living outside of brothels, away from the red light area were unable to pay their rent. Brothels where all the women cook together experienced shortage of gas cylinders and were also unable to pay for the separate ones.

Along with the hardships the financial crunch brought, the lockdown brought more issues for our women. The women who are HIV positive were unable to receive their Antiretroviral Therapy treatment. Though the essential services and hospitals were open, the women found it hard to get transport. They were also extremely worried about the COVID 19 safety while going to the hospitals.

This entire situation resulted in extreme emotional and mental distress, anxiety and panic among the women. The confinement of women and their children at home resulted in feeling frustrated and helpless. Since Saheli staff was unable to visit the women in person, the staff and peers started telephonic counselling. For the women who were pregnant or needed immediate medical attention Saheli’s peers accompanied them to the hospitals and supported them throughout the procedures. Through counselling the staff could provide mental health support and help answer the women’s queries regarding COVID 19.

Saheli staff and peers started checking in with as many women as possible regarding the medications of HIV positive women and others, children’s wellbeing and other difficulties faced by them. Though the telephonic counselling helped the women emotionally, the financial hardships persisted.

Saheli decided to appeal for funds and help the women financially.. The staff started reaching out to donors personally. And we received generous support from groups, organisations and individual donors, in the form of funds and other donations such as ration kits, dry snacks for children, sanitizers etc.

Over the past year and half, we have continued to receive donations from various donors. We have distributed ration kits to the women living in the red light area and outside. We have distributed safety kits containing sanitizers and masks. We have been providing financial support to those who are struggling.

We are humbled by the support received and how the community has stood up for its own to help. The women have been helping each other and also the older children have taken up the responsibility of supporting the community.


To protect women from HIV infection.

- To provide the care to women affected by HIV related illness or AIDS.s laoreet dnec lacus nunc.
- To prevent discrimination against women infected/affected by HIV.

To provide medical services

- To provide medical services for treatable S.T.I s
- To work for women affected with Tuberculosis. -To provide for hospice care for terminally ill women.
- To provide care for affected and infected children

care and education of children and sex workers

- To work for the care and education of children and sex workers.
- To become self-supporting and self-organized for long-term interventions and activities.
- The organization will work to prevent minor girls below the age of 18 years, from entering into sex work.

Provide free legal aid assistance

- To provide free legal aid assistance, to women in sex work who will need it.
- Generally to do all such other lawful acts, deeds or things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of any/or all of the above aims and objects of the society.

Address the various issues related to the trauma, depression,suicide women in sex work.

- To address the various issues related to the trauma, depression and suicide among women in sex work.
- Motivate them for regular savings to improve their lifestyle.
- To access various identity proofs for woman in sex work.

Present coverage

At present Saheli Sangh covers 2 lodges, 100 Non Brothel Based Sex Workers (NBBSWs) and approximately 2000 women in sex work living in the Red Light Area of Pune. Saheli conducts sensitisation programs and activities to members of mainstream society, especially students at various educational institutions, and civil society groups.

Major stakeholders for Saheli Sangh are

Women in sex work, Women in sex work and their regular partners living with HIV or AIDS, Non Brothel Based Women in Sex Work (NBBSWs),Brothel keepers, children of sex workers and families residing in the community, Mainstream society, Children of sex workers, Non-paying clients (regular partners), Youth-Students from various educational institutes

Strategy of working

Saheli’s activities are based on the Peer Education model, Through the collective efforts of Sangh members, Working with various partners like NGOs (at Local, Regional, National and International levels) ,Civil society groups, Academic Institutes. etc

Saheli recived Josie Marien 2015 cash award for the work around Empowerment Workshop with women in sex work in Pune City


Following activities are conducted to achieve the above objectives

• Mobilization of women in sex work for CBO development.
• Organizing training workshops for the peers and women in sex work.
• Addressing different needs of women in sex work and their children.
• Strengthening self-help group of women living with HIV/AIDS.
• Condom promotion through awareness, education, demonstration and networking with other NGOs related to supply.
• STD, HIV/AIDS prevention education.
• Counselling, Treatment and follow-up and referral services for STD patients.
• Updating information regarding STD, HIV/AIDS of all the members
• Networking with government hospitals, clinics and another NGOs and agencies.
• Referral for ICTC/PMTCT and ART Registration.
• Community Kitchen project.
• Drop-in Centre for sex workers.
• Day and night Crèche for children of sex workers.
• In collaboration with Yashvantrao Chavan open university started educational for women in sex work.
• Support to get various social entitlements e. g Pan-card, Ration card Bank passbook.
• Implementing mental health programme for women and children.
• Advocacy with stack holders, Support during crisis situation for women in sex work.
• Legal literacy programme for women in sex work
• Saheli have started providing medical services for women in sex work and their children in collaboration with FPAI(Family Planning Association of India)
• Saheli has conducted first ’empowerment workshop’ for women in sex work in Pune’s red light area. Workshop was conducted by trained facilitators from ‘Empowerment Institute’ USA.