Introduction: The Humsafar Trust is a male sexual health agency started in April 1994 as a community-based organization by self-identified homosexual men with the mission to strive for the human rights of sexual minorities and for the provision of quality health services to MSM and tritiya panthi (HIJRAS). The Humsafar theory of change said that if they work towards the human rights of sexual minorities and the health of MSM and tritiya panthi (HIJRAS), then this work will lead to acceptance and equality of sexual minorities and a healthier community.
HST’s community work started in 1994 with the free distribution of condoms at two of the MSM sex sites in Mumbai. In 1998 its first grant came from the Directorate of Health Services in Mumbai to conduct a sex mapping study that identified 77 sites where MSM meet regularly either to seek partners or socialize and exchange information. Humsafar was awarded the first pilot project to motivate Safer Sex among MSM at Selected Sites in Mumbai Metro supported by MDACS in April 1999, following which HST advocated with different stakeholders and set up a Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centre (VCTC) to provide MSM and TG with counseling and HIV/STI testing services. The intervention project of HST was scaled up by USAID/FHI under its IMPACT project. Currently HST implements six intervention projects across the city of Mumbai and has several research projects to understand the needs of the community and provide inputs to strengthen the existing intervention programs. HST is also implementing two projects under GFATM (Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria) Round 9 covering 17 states in the country. Several advocacy initiatives are undertaken to advocate and strive for the human rights of LGBT communities in India. The organization currently has 131 fulltime and 154 part time employees.
Background: In the initial phase of the FHI IMPACT project, a Micro-Credit Society as a tool was set up for supporting community staff on their immediate financial needs and to introduce workplace treatment for HIV positive Men having Sex with Men (MSM) and Transgender. This micro-credit functioned for a decade and eventually it was decided that the credit society be registered as a legal entity. However there were differning views o the registration of the society and it was decided that till a final decision is made on the issue, the activities of the society would be suspended. In the last few years, there wereconstant demands from the teams to resume the activities of the credit society. The staff required financial support to provide for their emergency family needs, education or other medical needs. It was observed due to lack of an in-house credit society, staff members had to approach private money lenders and take loan at exorbitant interest rates. Due to the high interest rates, most of the staff remained in perpetual debts which had negative impacts on their personal and professional life.
Process : A meeting was conducted to discuss the need and operational issues regarding credit society for the employees at the Annual HST offsite on 5th February 2015 The meeting was attended by the team members from Targeted Interventions, Programme management and the board.
Justification : The need for starting a credit society was felt strongly among all the members present as they felt having the credit society allowed them to do some savings on a regular basis. Being member of the credit society enabled them to take loans from the society when they required and did not have to approach money lenders for loans at higher interest rates. The members also felt a sense of community ownership in being part of the credit society of the organization. It was also emphasized that the core funds of the organization would not be possible to meet the financial needs of the employees as the corpus if often used to support other important non-funded activities such as advocacy events, annual events, and capacity building initiatives and to support the TIs when the funds are delayed. The meeting minutes were discussed with all team members present at the offsite on second day and their views were invited. It was unanimously agreed that the credit society of HST will resume activities and that a plan of action will be laid down detailing guidelines for implementing the credit society activities.