5,000 sex workers to learn about Bengal’s co-op model

Kolkata, Sep 25 (IANS) Over 5,000 sex workers from 16 states will come together on Sunday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of West Bengal-based Usha Multipurpose Cooperative – the only co-operative run by sex workers.

The participants during the course of the week-long celebrations will also discuss ways to replicate the Bengal model in their state.

There will be discussions and deliberations on models of development, entrepreneurship and role of co-operatives, screening of documentary films and cultural performances, said Satabdi Saha, joint co-ordinator, finance division of Usha and also a daughter of a sex worker.

A recent study which shows how the co-operative has helped improve the quality of life of many sex workers in Kolkata will also be presented.

“Sex workers have for long been doubly disadvantaged by exclusion and marginalization.

“The 20th anniversary is a standing testimony of what sex workers can achieve if they are empowered and collectivized to work for their economic and social betterment,” said former union health secretary Sujatha Rao.

Several members of the co-operative will also narrate their own journeys of empowerment in the event organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (a sex workers collective) and Centre For Advocacy and Research.

Durbar will also be providing training on the cooperative to around 100 sex workers so that the Bengal model could be replicated in other states.

Usha was established on June 21, 1995 in Kolkata with the aim of providing financial security to sex workers and securing educational and career building opportunities for children of sex workers.

It is run by a board of nine directors, all of whom are sex workers. It draws its membership exclusively from sex workers.

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