Women with HIV Working for a Future in India

Women working with HIV in India

Women living with HIV learn skills such as sewing and tailoring during a six month program at a teaching center in India. Photo by Stephen Cunliffe for CRS

Freelance writer Steve Cunliffe reports on a CRS program for HIV-affected women in India:

“Two years ago my husband ran off and I was forced to take my two children and move back to my parent’s home. Last year I became very ill; I was supposed to die, but God saved me. After recovering, I decided that I needed to improve my life and circumstances for the sake of my children,” says 30-year-old Sumati. “A friend brought me to Bosco Mangaal, where I received further antiretroviral treatment until I was healthy and strong enough to begin training in tailoring.”

Mangaal, meaning ‘light’ in the local language, seems a very apt name for a social services partner of a major Catholic Relief Services HIV project in India, LIFE AID. Women living with HIV learn skills such as sewing and tailoring at their teaching center. The six-month training program culminates with an opportunity for the most skilled, committed and productive ladies to band together and form a co-op that receives ongoing support, such as interest-free loans and marketing assistance, from Bosco Mangaal.

Sumati is a proud member of the newly formed Bosco Shilheibi Production Unit: their trademark name translates as ‘the most skillful women producers of quality products.’ Fifteen brave women, all living with HIV or widowed by AIDS, belong to this textile production unit. At a recent festival fair, the women sold almost 15,000 products – and put the profits into a communal fund for investing in new sewing machines and raw materials for the future.

“The CRS funding ended in October 2010 and we need to think of our future. It is a big challenge without their help and money anymore, but we have saved a little and also have some fabrics left over, so we can make it work. I never had a job before this year; now every month I take home a profit of Rs.1,000 ($23) for myself,” Sumati says.

“I am very, very happy and so thankful to Bosco Mangaal and CRS for everything they have done to give me these opportunities. I have suffered a lot, but I’m not afraid to fight the challenges that still lie ahead of me. Last year I very nearly died, but now I have a future and I want to go on living for another 100 years in this good place.”

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