Rodríguez Casadevall, Anna (2015): Life Satisfaction, Empowerment and Human Development among Women in Sex Work in the Red Light Area of Pune (Maharashtra, India).  The Case of Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh. València: Universitat de València.

Anna Rodríguez Casadevall · International Coaching for Women

Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh is a sex workers collective and community-based organization established in 1998 in Pune (Maharashtra, India) whose mission is the empowerment of women in sex work through collectivization. The collective is not governed by members from mainstream society; rather, the board is elected by its members (9) who live among other women in sex work and take all decisions regarding the collective and welfare of the community.

In August 2012, 17 Saheli members attended the Imagine Empowerment Workshop, a 4-day workshop focused on seven core areas (relationship, body, work, money, sexuality, emotions and spirituality) and designed to empower women in challenging life circumstances to envision and create new possibilities for their life, family and community through participation. After the empowerment, trainers (who are also social workers at Saheli) realised that women verbalised their feelings and that this was the first time in their life they were getting an opportunity to release their tensions and think about themselves. 

Having detected the positive outcomes of the empowerment workshop held in Pune in August 2012 and checking the positive results of the research conducted by the Imagine team in Kenya in August 2012 (Shankar A. et al., 2013), the research hereby presented wants to evaluate the impact of the Imagine Empowerment Workshop and empowerment of the women in sex work of Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh, giving special attention to the areas of interest of the Saheli collective. 

Besides, we also wanted to evaluate the global life satisfaction of the women in sex work, so we replicated a study on life satisfaction in Kolkata (Biswas-Diener and Diener, 2001) and Managua (Cox, 2012), where women in sex work were measured their global life satisfaction as well as domain life satisfaction.

Thirty-six women in sex work of Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh in Pune (India) were interviewed and responded to several measures of life satisfaction, empowerment and agency. Our study includes both quantitative and qualitative analysis, and the goals of the current study are (1) to measure the global life satisfaction of women in sex work of Pune, and (2) to evaluate and follow up the impact of the Imagine Empowerment Workshop in the empowerment and agency processes of the subjects. The conclusion is that (1) women in sex work of Pune have a similar global life satisfaction than women in sex work in Kolkata and higher global life satisfaction than the women in sex work in Managua, and (2) that the Empowerment Workshop seems to show a positive effect in empowerment and agency in most of the participants, which is related human development and more gender equality.