For the poorest and most marginalised populations, it is difficult to access mainstream financial security and services or to strive for a life of safety. Facing poverty, violence and discrimination on a daily basis, individuals find themselves caught in a web of deprivation, making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
In India, the state and central governments provide more than 200 social protection schemes that reduce levels of vulnerability, risk and deprivation among the most marginalised communities. Some examples of social protection schemes in the country include pension schemes, health insurance, education assistance and housing schemes.
These schemes protect vulnerable populations against political, economic, environmental or health catastrophes.
While several such schemes are available in the country, marginalised communities who need this the most, often do not know about the very existence of these schemes. Even if they are aware, accessing the schemes is a major challenge due to cumbersome procedures and somewhat insensitive government machineries. This is why the Single Window Model of social protection was introduced to educate vulnerable groups about social protection and assist them in accessing the schemes.
The model works with various stakeholders and systems to ensure that the most deserving communities have access to these schemes. This was first piloted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in India. It was then scaled up for HIV/ AIDS interventions through support by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation via the Avahan Phase III programme. It was later brought into the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP).
Over a period of 3 to 4 years, social protection schemes worth more than rupees 1,500 crores were made available to the communities through the Avahan programme. Apart from scholarship and monetary entitlements, people from these vulnerable communities have secured passports, BPL cards, insurance, voter IDs, Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and ration cards.
Today, the programme has helped to shape the approach of social protection for poor, marginalised and vulnerable communities in India and has been proven to work for communities in urban slums, rural poor, marginalised factory workers and other such groups.
UNDP and NACO commissioned Swasti and the Vrutti Livelihood Resource Centre to carry out a study of the existing livelihood programmes for PLHIV and other vulnerable communities. The study highlighted issues in the design and approach of livelihood programs and the limited impact on poverty reduction of those infected and affected by HIV for a variety of reasons.
The study identified, among other things, social protection as an effective strategy to reduce economic and health shocks related to HIV infection for marginalised communities. Increased risk of HIV infection for communities like sex workers, MSM and transgender communities is often a result of extreme poverty and exploitation. Subsequent to the study, Swasti developed and piloted the Single Window Model, which helped at-risk and those living with HIV to access social entitlements and social protection schemes.