SLIDERS (pictures) Sahodaran means brother in Tamil, and that sense of kinship is exactly what we strive to be for Tamil Nadu/’s LGBTIQ community. Since our inception in 1998 we have expanded our outreach from MSM to all LGBTIQ. Today we seek to empower all sexual minorities to reach their full potential by providing a safe haven of community support, outreach, and activism. Our mission is to create a world that is safe for all people, regardless of orientation, a world without fear of violence or stigma. Sahodaran is the first CBO (community based organization) of its kind in Southern India, and one of the first in all of India, run by LGBTIQ for LGBTIQ.
(Picture of Sunil) Sahodaran was founded in 1996 and got registered in 1998 by Sunil Menon.C. Since then Sahodaran has been a leader in the LGBTIQ community in Southern India. We currently run two drop-in centers and four sister organizations. We also employ 20 full-time staff, 64 part-time staff, and 250 volunteers that include physicians, advocates, academicians, and researchers.
Our founder carved out a road for advocacy and created a community which grew to be a stronghold for the LGBTIQ community of Chennai. He studied anthropology at Madras University, and while he was doing his PdH, in 1992, he got a call from an anthropologist asking him to do some work on HIV/AIDS for the World Health Organisation. In 1993 he presented his paper in Berlin at the International HIV/AIDS conference. That changed his life forever. It was then that he realized MSM where one of the main groups exposed to high levels of risks. Despite he started working as a fashion designer, he has always fought to promote LGBTIQ awareness and to reduce the risk of HIV transmission and curb the stigma of HIV. He has presented several papers all around the world related to sexual health and LGBTIQ rights. His work has been recognized has on numerous occasions by national and international organizations.
(Picture of Jaya) Jaya is currently the General Manager of Sahodaran. She initiated her work with Mr.Sunil Menon.C as a peer educator and has worked her way up to the general manager position. Because of this, she has a unique understanding of the LGBTIQ community in Chennai, and has personally shaped it. She has worked to make Sahodaran the safe space and powerhouse it is today. Sahodaran, the staff and the community as a whole is her new family. Even though she is a kothi activist she has a deep connection with the entire LGBTIQ movement. Jaya has participated in many national and international conferences.
Sahodaran began with kothis/gay men community. But soon we realized transgender needs and concerns where similar, due to it, Sahadoran provided technical support to the group of community and created new community based organizations to support other LGBTIQ members. Nowadays our organization is more open to every LGBTIQ person. Accordingly our main objectives are:
• To educate the community to be conscious of and be respectful to the LGBTIQ community.
• To address the sexual health issues surrounding the sexual practices and sexuality amongst Tamil Nadus LGBTIQ population.
• To create awareness regarding STI/HIV/AIDS among the LGBTIQ population.
• To foster change at the local, state, and national levels to ensure the rights and dignity of the LGBTIQ community.
Thus far, we have been consistently evolving with every year. For the past 15 years, intervention sites of our organization have expanded to include certain areas among beaches, parks, and train routes that traverse the city connecting to the suburbs. As the demographics and densities of populations in some sites changed throughout the years, the outreach has since been modified to suit the dynamics of each site.
A major step forward will be through targeting MSM who are currently involved in heteronormative marriages and behaviors. These men present a special risk for the spread of STIs and HIV. By engaging in extra-marital sex these men not only contract illness that is brought home to the wife, but then can further spread the infections to other partners. At Sohodoran we believe Targeted Interventions geared toward these men can help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease. We also firmly believe that our work to create a more tolerant and inclusive society will ease the burden these men feel about their sexuality.
Sahodaran is continually engaged in outreach efforts to educate and sensitize school students since they represent the leaders of our future. Our sensitization workshops range from small informal meetings of 15-20 students within our office, to large-scale gender and sexuality programs targeting 500 students at a time. We have also hosted volunteers, interns and researchers from other countries, including the United States, Uganda, Nigeria, and Japan.
Additionally, we are always seeking to promote and support our sister organizations so that we may tackle specific issues within all of the LGBTIQ community together as one.
Our endeavor to ensure LGBTIQ equal rights has been recognized several times:
• Sahodaran director Sunil Menon won lifetime achievement award from Asian book of records and TAI-VHS in 2014.
• The Family Planning Association of India awarded us the “Best Grassroots Level Award” in 2014.
• We received a Solidarity award from the South India AIDS Action Programme for our work with Pehchan TI project in 2011.
• Sahodaran received a special award of appreciation in Nagapattinam district in 2010 for the orientations conducted there.
• We received National AIDS Control Organization/’s Red Ribbon Express Cultural Troupe Award in 2010 for our dance and theatre-based advocacy.
• Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society honored Sahodaran in 2010 by awarding us a new project in North Chennai: Sahodaran Unit II. Recognizing our success in Central and South Chennai, TNSACS exhorted us to empower and mobilize MSM and TGs in impoverished areas of North Chennai. We were also asked to conduct counselors orientation and experience sharing for other NGOs implementing TIs for MSM.
• We were recipients of “Best Civil Society Award” from UNAIDS in 2006.
• The Royal Netherlands honored us for ‘Best Street Theatre/’ in 2006.
We are part of the India Network for Sexual Minorities (INFOSEM). We are also member of the Community Advisory Boards at Y.R. Gaitonde since 2001. Since 2007 we assist the Tuberculosis Research Centre and we are involved in the Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board since 2008. We are also member of the Tamil Nadu Rainbow Coalition (TNRC) since 2008. We have also collaborated with UNESCO in 2017.
In addition, we have four sister organizations with whom we work together:
THOZHI is a registered community based organization (CBO) created to cater the different and unique needs of transgender people. The primary objective of Thozhi is to achieve justice, equity and quality health and community service provision for Transgender people, their partners, families and friends. It/’s run by and for young, dynamic TG women based in South and Central Chennai, aiming to provide holistic support for members of the TG community, ranging from sexual health to crisis management, livelihood and social entitlements.
Established in 2010 and registered in 2012, Thozhi was initially supported entirely by the savings of community members themselves, with Technical Support from Sahodaran Unit I. Since 2014, Thozhi has implemented the Pehchan Pre-TI project from the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society, reaching out to mobilize transgender women and educate them about HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Thozhi has supported income generation programs enabling transgender women to make handmade mobile pouches, handbags and jewellery. Thozi has twice (2013 and 2015) received the ‘Best Stall/’ award from the Women/’s Self Help Group Annual Fair held in Chennai. It has also actively advocated for the Tamil Nadu State Government to revitalize the stagnant Transgender Welfare Board and implement the provisions of the Supreme Court judgment of 2014 recognizing transgender rights. Thozhi/’s efforts were rewarded in 2015 when the State Government finally granted 260 free homes to poor, homeless transgender women. This organization has also pioneered innovative programs within the transgender community, including a sensitization program for jamath leaders (elders within the traditional transgender/thirunangai community) about surgery operations and care and support for their HIV-affected mentees, a sports meet for transgender women, and a large-scale public protest criticizing the negative portrayal of transgender women in Tamil cinema.
Snegithi is an organization run by and for the TG community in North Chennai, with Technical Support from Sahodaran Unit II. It was established in 2012 and registered in 2014. Working in an extremely impoverished area, Snegithi/’s efforts have been geared more towards securing the basic needs of slum-dwelling transgender women, such as housing and intervention during police crises. Since February 2015, Snegithi has been actively advocating with the Ministry of Social Welfare to intervene in a housing crisis in North Chennai where over 50 transgender women were forcibly evicted from their residences. In collaboration with Chennai Rainbow Pride Month, Snegithi also conducted a large-scale sensitization program for over 500 college-going youth in North Chennai (June 2015), supported by the U.S. Consulate in Chennai.
ITI (Indian Transgender Initiative)
The India Transgender Initiative is a CBO established in 2012 and registered in 2013, that focuses on creating platforms for transgender women to sensitize the public about their needs through dance, theatre and debate. ITI facilitates the inclusion of transgender women/’s performances in major television programs, as well as in annual festivals in Koovakkam, Salem, Madurai, and Kothattai.
Established in 2012 and registered in 2014, Thozhan is a nascent initiative for LGBT rights, based in Thirupathur in Vellore district. Thozhan conducts outreach to LGBT community members more generally, and focuses on sensitizing poor, rural area dwellers about sexuality and human rights.
WHAT WE DO
DROP IN CENTER
Every afternoon our office is a riot of color and laughter as a wide range of people from across the city come to utilize the community kitchen, facilitate the prayer club and free noon meals, seek advice regarding personal crises, practice for an upcoming dance performance or simply rest and watch movies. At Sahodaran we know that isolation, shame, and stigma are some of the biggest obstacles for the LGBTIQ community trying to practice more healthy-seeking behaviors. To remedy this situation and as part of our Targeted Interventions, we operate a Drop-In Center six days a week where community members can come to socialize, seek help during crises, or participate in ongoing events. Our Drop-In Center owes its vibrancy to the fact that we are completely managed and occupied by LGBTIQ members. This makes our office an oasis for those people to find some relief from the stigma they encounter in society.
- HIV/AIDS PREVENTION AND CARE SERVICES
AIDS/HIV is an important health public problem in India. According to the last Annual Report of NACO (National AIDS Control Organization), in 2015 the prevalence of AIDS in India was 0.26. Despite the adult HIV prevalent has decreased from 0.38 in 2001/2003 to 0.26 is still a great concern for this country. Around 90% of HIV transmissions are related to unprotected sexual intercourse or sharing of injection equipment between an infected and an uninfected individual. Consequently, there are groups of population who are exposed to higher levels of risk. This groups include Female Sexual Workers (FSWs), Men who has Sex with Men (MSM), Transgenders (Ts), and Injecting Drug Users (IDUs). Stigma and discrimination towards HIV is a great obstacle for people to take up prevention, treatment, and support services. Due to all the above, one of the main objectives of Sahodaran is to create awareness regarding STI/HIV/AIDS among the LGBTIQ population.
To that end we are part of the Targeted Intervention program supported by the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society. This program is one of the most important prevention strategies in India, focused with populations in a determinate area where there are one or more high risk groups. For more information you can visit their website (https://www.tnsacs.in/targetted_intervention.php?related_links=1).
First of all, we identify and reach out to community members at hot stops frequented by MSM. We also provide condoms, lube, and we educate them about STI and safe sex practices, both individually and in groups. As early testing and diagnosis is the gateway of HIV prevention, treatment and care, we provide access to confidential STD testing services, along with preliminary diagnosis. For that matter we introduce them to community-friendly counselors for pre-test and post-test, we refer the HIV/STI patients to community-friendly healthcare providers for treatment and care. We also refer HIV+ individuals to ART dispensaries. For us is pretty important to facilitate them safe spaces in all this actions.
In addition to HIV/AIDS prevention and care, annual health camps are conducted at Sahodaran Unit I and II to provide free eye, dental, and insulin tests for community members.
CRISIS SUPPORT AND COUNCELING
Sahodaran has a crisis support team that works 24 hours, 365 days a year. The main purpose of the crisis team is to ensure that we are able to address issues and
challenges faced by the members of the LGBTIQ community. The crisis support team addresses any and all concerns that may come up, from workplace discrimination,
passing through police harassment, to family or relationship troubles, and anything in between. Our team strives to be available within 24 hours of contact and all
encounters are 100% confidential.
One-on-one counseling is also provided in-office to all of our members who approach for help, providing sufficient information, knowledge, and an understanding about
STIs/HIV/AIDS. As a part of promoting and creating awareness about safe sex, we develop and distribute IEC material, as well as Behavior Change Communication (BCC)
material developed through consultation meetings with the guidance of BCC consultants. New materials are continually developed as per need.
INCOME GENERATION PROGRAMS
To foster economic independence amongst all LGBTIQ/MSM and to build our own reserve of unrestricted funds, Sahodaran has initiated several income generation programs
(IGP) for community members to craft and sell handmade products. These products include hand-sewn sari blouses, handbags, mobile phone covers, glass paintings, and
staged cultural performances for a fee. The office also functions as an informal marketplace where people can come and sell their products to others within the local
community. One of our goals is to build our IGP potential to become less dependent on external funding.
- AWARNESS AND EDUCATION PROGRAMS
• Social attitudes
Sahodaran works to transform social attitudes, creating a conductive environment for community members to realize their full potential. Our sensitization programs
educate non-community members about gender, sexuality, and the diversity of sexual orientation, through simple presentations and testimonials tailored to the needs of
each audience. Our modules also emphasize the legal, health-related, and psychosocial challenges faced by community members. In addition to tackling individual
prejudices, these programs build public support for LGBT rights and the decriminalization of homosexuality. Our programs aim to forge community friendly spaces at
every level, from the home and surrounding locality, to advocacy for and state and national-level policy change.
• Local community and family
At the level of the home, we facilitate parental counseling to help parents accept and support their children/’s sexual orientation. We also counsel MSM on how to
better approach their families, through a family member that is sympathetic to their cause. Through our sister concern Thozhi, we initiated the first sensitization
program for jamath leaders (respected elders within the traditional transgender community), to help them provide better care and support to the kothis under their
care. Received training for various module female partners of MSM & TG 2012 – especially Police, Shop keepers, auto drivers and landlords.
We work to transform hot spots into community-friendly spaces by educating and sensitizing locals, such as landlords, shop owners, police personnel, auto drivers, and
rowdies. Impressed by our success with police advocacy, Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society selected Sahodaran to conduct police sensitization programs throughout
the state of Tamil Nadu. At several hot spots, local flower-sellers and petty shopkeepers have agreed to stock free condoms to hand over to community members. During
incidents of violence or harassment, auto drivers and other local stakeholders can act as witnesses or sources of support, rather than remain silent bystanders. In
2014, through Sahodaran Unit I and II, we conducted 11 sensitization programs with local stakeholders, reaching a total of 340 persons.
• State and religious groups
Sahodaran maintains ongoing relationships with influential political and social figures such as community-friendly celebrities, young politicians, progressive media
outlets, and religious leaders. We also work closely with religious groups and leaders to sensitize them about community issues and concerns and honoring them at
events. We have established relationships with groups traditionally considered to be opposed to sexual rights, such as the Hindu Munnani and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. We
draw on these community-friendly leaders for events and individual counseling to promote better acceptance of LGBTIQ people within their families and in society. On
average we hold two sensitization meetings a year with political leaders and about four to five meetings with religious leaders.
As a key member of the Tamil Nadu Rainbow Coalition since 2008, Sahodaran partners with fifteen other CBOs and NGOs across the state to organize large-scale events
advocating for sexuality rights and the decriminalization of homosexuality. One of our sister organizations, Thozhi, has played an instrumental role in revitalizing
the currently stagnant Transgender Welfare Board in Tamil Nadu, pressuring the government to grant homes for 260 transgender women that were previously homeless.
Our organization has been engaging in mid-media communication to educate the public on both LGBTIQ and HIV/AIDS issues across the State of Tamil Nadu, and to advocate
for non-discrimination. Another visible contribution is the annual Pride Month in Chennai which takes place during June every year. Sahodaran facilitates the events of
Pride Month by mobilizing community members and students to participate, leveraging contacts to mobilize funds, and offering the Drop In Center as a space for meetings
and other purposes. Sahodaran also conducts annual day celebrations that provide a creative and empowering outlet and space for many sexual minorities to display their
artistic talents. This includes members of Sahodaran who regularly perform at the Annual Koovagam festival near Villupuram, and at the annual Chennai Rainbow Pride
Same pictures (not divided in different carpets)
WHERE ARE WE
Sahodaran is open Monday through Saturday from the hours of 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
You can contact us by email email@example.com or call us at 044-23740486 // 984-186-5423.
Or you can directly come visit us in our office located in the 3rd St Extn, Railway Colony, Aminjikarai, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
Name: Email: Phone: Message: Enter this number: 1047
WHAT CAN YOU DO
- Make a donation!
Sahodaran today continues to thrive and provide for the LGBTIQ community in Chennai with the support of our generous donors. With your donation you/’re helping us to
accomplish our services, to reach our objectives and to defend the rights of LGBTIQ community in Chennai. Thank you!!
- Join us as a volunteer!
There are many volunteer opportunities for those who want to become involved.
At Sahodaran we strive to create a world that is safe and accepting for our community. By lending your voice and support to the cause, you too can make a difference
and be a part of our kinship in many ways.
To foster economic independence amongst all LGBTIQ/MSM and to build our own reserve of unrestricted funds, Sahodaran has initiated several income generation programs (IGP) for community members to craft and sell handmade products. These products include hand-sewn sari blouses, handbags, mobile phone covers, glass paintings, and staged cultural performances for a fee. The office also functions as an informal marketplace where people can come and sell their products to others within the local community. One of our goals is to build our IGP potential to become less dependent on external funding.
- AWARNESS AND EDUCATION PROGRAMS