Written by Biswa Bhusan Pattanayak and Balaji Nagendran, SAATHII, India
SAATHII’s mission is to expand access to health, justice and social welfare for communities marginalised on account of HIV status, gender and/or sexuality.
SAATHII started work towards HIV treatment advocacy and LGBTIQA+ rights in India in 2002. As part of our initial mapping, we identified community members and emerging collectives that were keenly interested in peer mobilisation and advocacy for access to health and rights. However, many functioned as informal groups, and required external support to formalise their groups, obtain legal registration, develop documentation skills, and establish the financial and administrative systems needed in order to receive grant support and implement programmes.
SAATHII’s programme and finance teams worked together with each group to create customised capacity-building strategies, beginning with visioning exercises. Strategies included training and ongoing support in:
We gave seed support to informal groups and SAATHII staff provided capacity-building support until the groups became eligible to receive grants.
SAATHII has strengthened the financial and organisational systems of 32 community groups in 11 states to date. Over ten organisations were supported in registering and/or obtaining tax-exempt status.
Case study: ETA, a collective of transgender men, lesbians and bisexual women in Manipur state was supported by SAATHII at the start of 2014. It is now registered with the local authorities and has 102 members. It is actively engaged in advocacy and peer counselling support and has lobbied successfully for establishment of Manipur’s Transgender Welfare Board, the first of its kind in the country to explicitly include both trans women and trans men.
A one-size-fits-all approach does not work. Each community group has its own needs with varying level of formal education, resources and constraints, which must be considered when providing support. Financial-system strengthening activities must be communicated and facilitated in appropriate language, without using financial jargon. The use of case studies and spreadsheet templates also facilitates learning.
As staff turnover may be high in emerging and informal groups, one must be prepared to repeat the trainings to properly establish new processes. In addition, facilitate the development of standard operating procedures for financial and human resource management. This will help to sustain the learning and organisational development.
Biswa Bhusan Pattanayak, an ally of the LGBTIQA+ community, is Assistant Director at SAATHII. Biswa has over a decade of experience supporting community collectives around issues of organisational development and programmatic implementation. Biswa holds a Master’s degree in Social Work.
Balaji Nagendran, Finance and Administration Manager at SAATHII, has 12 years of relevant experience, including financial system-strengthening of community-based organisations from the disability and LGBTIQA+ communities. Balaji holds a Master’s degree in Commerce.
Website address of organisation: www.saathii.org