As a long-running sex workers’ collective since 2004, Ashodaya Samithi has created unique processes and approaches to building health promotion capacity to fight the HIV epidemic in South India. With the support of UNAIDS RST recognition of their innovative community driven approaches culminated in the establishment of the Ashodaya Learning Academy in 2010.
The ‘Ashodaya Way’ of learning focuses on community-to-community and community to non-community learning. Ashodaya Academy has been a laboratory of innovative teaching methods- tailored to the local context and the recipients of the training. It uses a mix of field-based and classroom training to transfer the learnings from its experience in building and nurturing a community-led organization and spearheading a HIV-prevention model in Southern India. Academy learnings have been translated into a curriculum that has been shared through peer-to-peer learning processes in which Ashodaya sex workers running programs serve as mentors and trainers. This curriculum has been delivered in various countries in the Asia Pacific Region and Africa.
Some of the documented successes of the Academy are marked reductions in curable STIs tied to empowerment-based models, the development of an empowerment-based model that addresses criticism of individual-centered empowerment by emphasizing collectivizing actions to transform structural factors that underscore oppressions and vulnerabilities to HIV and other STIs. It also includes community-level tracking of changes to structural and environmental factors, especially violence experienced by sex workers.
Ashodaya Academy in partnership with various overseas universities has worked to practice and promote an intensive model of community-based research- training community member as the researchers and principal information gatherers. In pursuit to deconstruct science to community, Ashodaya Academy has also simplified methods of scientific enquiry so that community is able to investigate its own issues. In the globally evolving paradigm of community-based research, Ashodaya hopes to promote more community-led processes of scientific enquiry.
The Academy is committed to enhancing KP-led processes and sex worker led initiatives in the Asia Pacific Region and Africa towards the achievement of the SDG goals in different countries in the area of prevention, including combination prevention, community led test/treat and care and achieve the 90 90 90 targets set by UNAIDS.