Anniversary Reflections: Eight years of Catalyzing Change

By Charmain Mohamed

Charmain Mohamed is Executive Director of Asia Catalyst.
Over the last eight years Asia Catalyst has grown in size and stature to become a leader in curriculum development and advocacy that furthers the right to health for marginalized groups in Asia. The transition has been a remarkable one, not least because it happened within the context of a global recession and a steady decline and re-focus of international HIV funding. Our measure of success however, is not a financial one, nor even one of organizational sustainability, but rather one of impact. Impact for the communities we work with, and impact on addressing some of the worst effects of punitive laws and regulations on HIV, and access to an adequate standard of health for all.

Eight years ago the global number of people dying because of AIDS was at its highest ever. That number has fallen by 35% in the last eight years, mainly because of an increase in access to treatment for people living with HIV. At this year’s AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne, Australia, UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe, remarked that, if similar progress continued and accelerated, we were “on track to end the epidemic by 2030.” However, with two thirds of people living with HIV still not accessing treatment, lack of vigilance now could see current progress eroded and targets being set back by a decade, if not more. Last year UNAIDS reported an estimated 2.1 million new infections and 1.5 million AIDS related deaths globally. Clearly there is more to be done.


AIDS 2014: Transgender Sex Worker Research

[:en]This week at the International Aids Conference (IAC), Asia Catalyst presents preliminary findings from a joint research project on transgender sex workers conducted with two Chinese organizations, Beijing Zuoyou Information Center and Shanghai CSW & MSM Center.

Shanghai CSW (commercial sex worker) & MSM (men who have sex with men) Center (SCMC) was established in 2004 to focus on the rights and wellbeing of vulnerable sexual minorities in China. SCMC works to improve sexual minorities’ access to medical and legal services, and to improve the environment surrounding these vulnerable groups. As the secretariat of a sex workers network platform, SCMC also works in coalition with academic institutions, mass media, and other groups to improve public understanding of the discrimination faced by sex workers.


International AIDS Conference Poster

Asia Catalyst presents our research at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne this week. Our poster presentation outlines joint research on the Custody and Education system for female sex workers and clients in China, conducted alongside two of our community based partners.
Poster ICAP 6-15-page-001.jpg
We are excited to share with you the outline of this research. Too view the full poster, click here!

[UPDATE] Asia Catalyst Newsletter


Ending Arbitrary Detention for Sex Workers

pic 2.jpgAsia Catalyst released the report Custody and Education: Arbitrary Detention for Female Sex Workers in China on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2013. This landmark report, the first of its kind, compiled original research and testimony to detail China’s arbitrary detention and abuse of female sex workers. Asia Catalyst presented the findings and recommendations of  the report at several diplomatic and press events in Beijing and the report was covered extensively by the international media, including coverage  by the New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal and China’s Global Times. The report also prompted debate within China’s legal community, and addressing the Custody and Education system has now become a priority issue for the Chinese Government/Civil Society Platform on HIV/AIDS, and The Red Ribbon Forum. The report is available in Chinese and English.

Medical Discrimination

On December 20, 2013, Asia Catalyst organized a conference to bring together government officials, health care professionals, lawyers, scholars, and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to discuss both the relationship between medical discrimination against (PLWHA) and the occupational safety of health care workers and also strategies to address medical discrimination amongst health professionals. The conference, which was titled “HIV and Occupational Safety and Health,” was the result of a collaborative process between Asia Catalyst, the International Labour Organization, the Red Ribbon Forum, the Women’s Network Against HIV/AIDS China, and the China CBO Network.

More than 70 participants attended the conference, including 20 health care workers from two general hospitals in Henan and Anhui provinces and 30 PLWHA. This ground-breaking conference provided, for the first time, a valuable opportunity for health care workers and PLWHA to communicate with each other and discuss concerns around the occupational safety of health care workers as a cause for medical discrimination. Two doctors who had experienced occupational exposure to the HIV virus, as well as a young man from Tianjin who only received life-saving surgery after modifying his medical documents to remove his HIV status, shared their personal experiences.

Capacity Building Cohort 2012 and 2013 evaluation

In 2013, Asia Catpic 3.jpgalyst concluded implementation of the two year pioneering Nonprofit Leadership Cohort program, which built organizational management skills for ten community-based organization (CBO). The graduates completed their training in mid-2013. Three graduates are going on to become certified as trainers to lead their own Nonprofit Leadership Cohort-style initiatives. This milestone of completing the first two years of Cohort programming prompted the first independent external evaluation of the Cohort. Ms. Shirley Lin, formerly of PACT China, undertook a comprehensive assessment by interviewing all Cohort graduates and staff. Her findings confirmed that Cohort graduates demonstrated improvement in the six skill areas proposed by the project including strategic planning, advocacy, fundraising, program management, and volunteer and risk management. They showed remarkable success in designing and implementing their own projects; and were able to develop targeted advocacy goals and feasible strategies to create change for their communities. The results of the assessment show increases in the effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, and sustainability of the participants’ organizations. Graduates shared their knowledge and skills not only within their own organizations, but also facilitated capacity building and skills sharing
for at least 65 of their peer organizations.

Cohort 2014 initiation

Asia Catalyst commenced a new Cohort round in November 2013 with a grant from the Ford Foundation, China Office. We received eight-eight applications from over twenty provinces of China, demonstrating the increased profile and reach of our organization. Asia Catalyst staff selected ten organizations as participants for the new Cohort program following applications, interviews, and reference reviews. The selected  participants come from diverse backgrounds but all have a focus on the right to health; working with marginalized communities including people living with HIV/AIDS, Men who have Sex with Men and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* groups; as well as one participant whose organization works on Pulmonary Hypertension.

On December 15-18, 2013, the representatives of these ten selected groups attended the first training workshop in Bangkok. As in the previous year, three Assistant Trainers were selected based on applications from Cohort graduates. The Assistant Trainers facilitated parts of the workshop and received additional instruction in advance. Two of the Assistant Trainers had strong backgrounds in advocacy and we are looking forward to providing more local advocacy examples to our Cohort members.

Bi-monthly calls

In a new initiative, Asia Catalyst facilitated the first of a series of bi-monthly coaching calls for current and previous program participants. Twenty-one individuals representing twenty-one organizations participated in the online meeting, which was conducted via private chat room. Asia Catalyst’s goal was to give active individuals an opportunity to facilitate one of the subsequent calls, which would help them hone their communication skills. The conversation for this first call concentrated on experience and skill sharing about finding new cooperation partners, building good media relationships, and sharing the situation of participants’ organizations.

New Partnerships

pic 4.jpgIn October 2013, Asia Catalyst delivered a one-day strategic planning workshop for fifteen recipient organizations of the Global Fund program in Guangdong Province. A staff member from Guangdong Association
of STD & AIDS Prevention and Control (GASAPC) who had previously participated in an Asia Catalyst workshop in Guangzhou, approached  Asia Catalyst directly to request this bilateral assistance. The workshop happened at a time when the Global Fund, the sole donor for most of the fifteen participating organizations, had closed their funding program to China. The Asia Catalyst facilitation therefore concentrated on having participants practice ways in which to meet their program and activity goals, as well as mapping potential new resources to cope with financial losses. Asia Catalyst also conducted a project management workshop for twenty grantee organizations of the China Social Welfare Foundation at the end of October. This workshop was based on an ongoing relationship with the China Philanthropy Research Institute (CPRI). Participants were from organizations that focus on the development of children and elderly people, in both rural and urban areas. As a result of the training, most participants were able to name differences between “activities”and “projects” and to build strong links between their activities and their overall organizational objective. As more and more organizations begin to adopt tools developed by Asia Catalyst, we aim to raise our profile and contribute to a sustainable social and nonprofit sector in China.


[NEWS] Asia Catalyst on the Front Page of The New York Times

[:en]We are very proud that our organization has been receiving international press coverage citing our report: 

“Custody and Education”: Arbitrary Detention for Female Sex Workers
in China (2013).

In addition to  The New York Times article, Asia Catalyst and the C&E report, has been mentioned on, The Guardian, AFP, and many other accredited news outlets. These articles are allowing Asia Catalyst the opportunity to broadcast the mistreatment of those in the Sex industry to readers around the world![:zh]

We are very
proud that our organization has been receiving international press coverage
citing our report: 
“Custody and Education”: Arbitrary Detention for Female Sex Workers
in China (2013).
  In addition
to  The
New York Times
article, Asia Catalyst and the C&E report, has been
mentioned on,
, AFP,
and many other accredited news outlets. These articles are allowing Asia Catalyst the opportunity to broadcast the mistreatment of those in the Sex industry to readers around the world!