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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

Ruling In Favour Of Gender Rights
Sakuntala Narasimhan

Earlier this year, when a female employee of the Kerala Livestock Development Board asked for maternity leave after becoming a mother through surrogacy and was denied on the grounds that “only normal delivery cases qualify for the facility”, it was the court that intervened and declared that “motherhood does not end with delivery of a baby; child rearing is also important”. When a single woman approached the local family court seeking sole guardianship of her child and the court wanted to send a notice to the father, the petitioner sought the opinion of the Supreme Court, which gave a landmark ruling specifying that an unwed mother can be made the sole guardian of her child and that “the views of the uninvolved father are not essential to protect the interests of the child”. In yet another case, of a minor sexually assaulted by her father, the Delhi High Court brought to task the police and a television channel ordering them to pay a sizeable monetary compensation to the child and her mother for “revealing details about the age of the victim, class of study, name and occupation of the father, the colony where the family lived, visuals of the doorstep of the house, and broadcasting the mother’s voice recorded (against her will)”. Indeed, the year 2015 has seen some progressive judgments that secure women’s rights as individuals, wives, single mothers and survivors of sexual crimes.

Such judgments emphasise that women cannot be commodified and are entitled to dignity as human beings.

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDOB10 1250 words

Romila Thapar On The Importance Of Speaking Out
Rashme Sehgal

Over the years, Professor Romila Thapar has been feted and criticised in equal measure. As one of India’s most distinguished historians whose works significantly portray the origins of Hinduism as an evolving interplay between social forces she has courted controversy on several occasions. In fact, in the recent backdrop of the “rising intolerance” in India she has fearlessly questioned the actions of the opinion-makers in her latest book, an anthology of essays titled, ‘The Public Intellectual in India’, and urged public intellectuals, “people who can ask the right questions at relevant moments”, to step up and speak up. In this candid one-on-one the octogenarian shares her thoughts on intellectuals returning national awards to register their protest on communal discord, the ever-shrinking “liberal space” in the country and the growing need for a dialogue that defines pluralism in the Indian context.

“When you are in a situation of great competition for jobs, water, healthcare - while resources remain very few - there is a tendency to turn to ideologies and groups who give you easy answers.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDOB11 1100 words
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