Journal Article

Enhancing financial security of female sex workers through a community-led intervention in India: Evidence from a longitudinal survey

Community-led organizations (COs) have been an integral part of HIV prevention programs to address the socio-economic and structural vulnerabilities faced by female sex workers (FSWs). The current study examines whether strengthening of community-led organizations and community collectivization have been instrumental in reducing the financial vulnerability and empowering FSWs in terms of their self-efficacy, confidence, and individual agency in India.

Data and methods
This study used a panel data of 2085 FSWs selected from 38 COs across five states of India. Two rounds of data (Round 1 in 2015 and Round 2 in 2017) were collected among FSWs. Data were collected both at CO and individual level. CO level data was used to assess the CO strength. Individual level data was used to measure financial security, community collectivization, and individual empowerment.

There was a significant improvement in CO strength and community collectivization from Round 1 to Round 2. High CO strength has led to improved financial security among FSWs (R2: 85% vs. R1: 51%, AOR: 2.5; 95% CI: 1.5–4.1) from Round 1 to Round 2. High collective efficacy and community ownership have improved the financial security of FSWs during the inter-survey period. Further, the improvement in financial security in the inter-survey period led to increased or sustained individual empowerment (in terms of self-confidence, self-efficacy, and individual agency) among FSWs.

Institutional strengthening and community mobilization programs are key to address the structural issues and the decrease of financial vulnerability among FSWs. In addition, enhanced financial security is very important to sustain or improve the individual empowerment of FSWs. Further attention is needed to sustain the existing community advocacy and engagement systems to address the vulnerabilities faced by marginalized populations and build their empowerment.