Shapla Mohila Sangstha(SMS)started it’s journey in 1997 to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS amongst marginalized groups (especially female sex workers) in 2 brothels in Faridpur. Prevention through education and awareness on HIV & AIDS and distributing condomsvit was main activities. Despite initial resistance SMSs’ staffs began to build real acceptance amongst the sex workers and after about 12 months received some financial support and technical assistance form Marie Stopes Clinic Society of Bangaldesh in 1998. In the same year HIV/AIDS and STI Alliance Bangladesh(HASAB) called for proposal and SMS received financial and technical support from HASAB early 1999 and started sctivities on Peer Education Model. Working with sex workers they proposed us they do not know how to read and write and requested SMS to start non-formal education for them. In 2002 SMS started non-formal education through REFLECT process among sex workers. Not only education SMS took initiatives how to claim their rights including group formation, cultural group formation and advocacy on behalf of sex workers children to ensure they gain admittance to government schools.
From small beginings SMS has built up a reputation as the leading HIV & AIDS organisation within Bangladesh.SMS has expanded its activities to include other marginalised communities in slum areas and has begun a programme of awareness, education and claiming rights.
SMS has also worked to develop a good relationship with local government bodies eg. District Commissioner and Civil Surgeon. SMS is involved in a number of local government committees eg. Local safe home for young girls.
Whilst SMS beleives it has already made a significant contribution to changing attitudes amongst local governemnt officials and local NGOs about sex workers, marginalised peopel and HIV. The organisaiton still faces challenges of tackling discrimination and stigma amongst the wider community. To meet this challenge SMS is looking to expand its programmes, mainstream HIV & AIDS into all its work and develop even stronger advocacy/rights based approaches.