This study uses the case study method to investigate the processes used by a local nongovernmental organization called the Society for People's Action for Development to organize sex workers in the slums of Bangalore, India, for HIV/AIDS prevention. The nongovernmental organization-facilitated HIV/AIDS program is based on the new paradigm of community organizing that encourages community participation and capacity building. Grounded in the culture-centered approach, this study documents the processes used to organize the women, while highlighting the role of communication in these processes. The study identifies 4 primary processes used to mobilize the community, namely collectivization, community awareness and sensitization, capacity building, and providing legal education and support. Each of these processes highlights the importance of attending to the economic, social, and political realities that shape the health of women. The common thread linking these processes together is the notion of "voice." More specifically, each process serves as a catalyst to produce discursive practices that enable women to provide support to each other, increase awareness in the community about the problems that they face, build self-reliance through financial skills training and communication training, and defend their legal rights. In addition, the study suggests that the primary role of nongovernmental organizations should be the creation of "communicative spaces," which are discursive and material spaces within marginalized communities and mainstream society where cultural participants can identify problems (oftentimes beyond the realm of health), manage solutions to those problems, and advocate for health and social change.
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The author would like to thank the people at the Society for People’s Action for Development (SPAD) and Vijaya Mahila Sangha (VMS) for their warm hospitality and willingness to share their stories with her. The author would also like to thank Dr. Mohan Dutta for his thought-provoking mentorship and friendship, which has introduced her to the wide range of dominant and “alternative” perspectives in the social sciences. Finally, the author is grateful to the Communication Department and Graduate School of Purdue University for funding through the Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship.