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Living On A Positive Note
Rakhi Ghosh

“HIV positive people live in shame, depression and do not speak up for their rights; we give them the confidence to do so. I have seen widowed positive women being denied their share in the husband’s property. We rally around them, helping them to get their rightful share. There are also complaints of doctors, nurses and health workers not attending on positive patients. With our efforts this problem has been solved.” For people living with HIV/AIDS, it’s the strong social backing, heartfelt concern as well as assistance in the form of legal services or vocational trainings offered by their support group that are the true life-savers. The Kalinga Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Odisha is no different. Set up by one infected woman, who hit rock bottom but eventually decided to fight back, this group, with centres across different districts like Sambalpur, Bargarh, Angul, Bhadrak, Puri, Koraput, Nayagarh and Kendrapara, is making a huge difference to positive people and their families.

“God has given me an opportunity to help and understand other positive women and fight for their rights.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDMC05R 1100 words

It’s “Mushroom-ing” Opportunities For Assam’s Women
Azera Parveen Rahman

‘Over the last few years, the rains have become quite erratic. Either we have incessant downpours that end up flooding the whole area or there are long spells of absolutely dry weather. This uncertainty has severely affected paddy cultivation, which initially had an adverse impact on our household income as well as nutritional status. Fortunately, that’s not the case anymore. We have a foolproof alternative now.’ In the lush countryside of Assam’s Golaghat district women like Aroti Devi, Jyoti Moni Das and others have discovered a new source of livelihood that has transformed them from quiet homemakers and agri-workers to “empowered farmers”. With support from the Mushroom Development Foundation, which works closely with the North East Institute of Science and Technology, the hardworking wives and mothers have taken to mushroom cultivation in a big way. As the initial investment is low – they can grow different varieties of the edible fungi in jute bags or bamboo frames – and the returns significant – a kilo of oyster mushrooms can fetch anywhere between Rs 100 to Rs 250 – today, they are relieved that they can build a better future for their children on their own terms.

“With mushroom farming, we finally have an assured income, no matter how small. It enables me to at least plan something concrete for the future.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDOB17 1200 words

Those With HIV Are “Not A Lost Cause”
Saadia Azim

Simaran Nesa, 14, contracted HIV from her mother, Suraiya Begum, after the older woman met with an accident while she was expecting Nesa, her third child. Transfusions with untested blood completely changed the course of Suraiya’s life and that of her unborn baby. Today, both mother and daughter are unconditionally loved by Nesa’s father, Md. Reyazuddin, a teacher in Thoubal district in Manipur, and it is his support that is their greatest strength. Whereas both mother and daughter “are aware of our positive status and make it a point to religiously have our medicines and take all necessary precautions for the sake of the other family members” what they really want is that “there must be greater efforts made to counsel others so that they too learn to live with people like us”. In the last decade, states in northeast India have registered a greater number of HIV cases than other parts of the country. According to the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) status report, Manipur has more than 25,000 registered people living with HIV. Their children, whether infected or not, are plagued by the fear of being identified and treated badly.

“Whereas we are counselling positive people we realise that there is an urgent need to counsel ordinary citizens as well so that they do not brand people. After all, the ART works only when people have good nutrition and living conditions.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDO729R 1150 words

A Former Sex Worker Speaks On Life And AIDS
Teresa Rehman

Miriam, a former commercial sex worker, had come to Nairobi from a remote village in the central province of Kenya somewhere in the early 1990s. A single mother, with two children, she had decided to migrate because there was no money or any employment opportunities in her village. The lack of choices had compelled her to leave her children with her mother and join her sister, who used to work as a sex worker in a brothel. Whereas in the beginning she took up a job in a hair salon, gradually, she came to realise that her monthly earnings of around 1,000 shillings in those days was inadequate to survive in the city and send back home. So she joined the large community of prostitutes in the Kenyan capital. Over a decade later, to her utter horror, she was tested HIV positive even though “I had always insisted that my clients wear condoms”. In a country where there are 1.6 million people living with HIV and where female sex workers have the highest reported HIV prevalence among any other vulnerable group, Miriam’s poignant story gives an insight into the life and struggles of a sex worker.

“er this profession with nothing and leave it with nothing. Nobody asked me to save for tomorrow.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: KENJ511R 970 words

Disability Be Damned, Pushpa Is Set To Work For Her Village
Kulsum Mustafa

She is highly-educated, extremely independent and her outlook is progressive. In short, she is your average city girl with a liberal upbringing from a well-heeled family, right? Wrong. Pushpa Singh belongs to a small, nondescript village in Sharaswasti, a backward district of Uttar Pradesh, is one of six siblings and has been physically disabled since birth. Of course, she has broken all stereotypes and overcome tough challenges to be elected as a member of the Block Development Council in her area. Needless to say, her being voted into power in otherwise patriarchal hinterland, where caste politics dominates, spells good news not just for the local women but will significantly impact the image of physically disabled people and expand their political participation.

“We voted for her and not the contestant from our caste simply because she is a fighter who has fought against all odds and we are confident she will fight for us too.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDOB09F 1200 words
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