HIV Positive Women Demand Livelihood Options

HIV positive women in Manipur struggle for their livelihood.

About the video: HIV positive women are stigmatized in Manipuri society and take the refuge of help centers where they can earn their livelihood as tailors and support themselves. The strong solidarity which develops among the women victims at the centers gives them strength to face the uncertainty and definite fatality of the illness. But earnings are meager and there is hardly enough to fill the stomach of their children, let alone provide for education or healthcare For HIV-infected women of Manipur life is a continuing struggle with little to back them up. Meanwhile, the government of Manipur has started an AIDS awareness program in the state which aims to sensitize the populace to the disease but the campaign lacks commitment to the victims who already suffering.
Our Community Correspondent says: Achungmei Kamai, our Community Correspondent from Manipur picked up this  story, when she buying a beautifully handcrafted bag at a local handicrafts market. She asked the vendor, where he got these bags from and shortly afterwards she went to the help centre to meet the women herself: "It was not easy to talk to the women about their life. But after a while they started telling me their stories. Some of it I could not record, as it was difficult for them to confide in front of the camera. But I was impressed that inspite of the fact these women have to cope with so much misfortune but still they love their children and provide for them. Society as well as the government need to take action to support this women and to end this viscous cycle of oppression against women."
The Issue: Manipur is one of the high HIV prevalent states in India. Reflecting on the statistics, the tiny state represents hardly 0.2 percent of India's population, yet it is contributes nearly 8 percent of India's total HIV positive cases. A blood sample survey in March 2008 revealed that there are 29,147 of HIV positives in the state. Among them, 7,513 are women.
Most women are kept away from sex education. The usage of condoms is low. The lack of education and information give the women little power to negotiate and influence their own destiny. The women are pressed into a subordinate role in their families and in society. These social structures make the woman vulnerable to the infection through rape, incest and trafficking. The government of Manipur observes that people living in the interiors and hilly areas are more susceptible.Since 1996 the state is working against the AIDS epidemic through the actions of the Manipur State Aids Control Society. In 2010 it drafted a new revised State AIDS Policy in which the state proclaims its full awareness of the AIDS epidemic and propagates to take action against the spreading of the disease. The state promises to ensure that priority attention will be given to the women and children affected by HIV. Special schemes like vocational training and income generating schemes were promised. In addition, people living with HIV/AIDS are given the right to have easy access to all kinds of necessary medical and treatment facilities and other social support services.
Call to action: The HIV-infected women from Manipur, however  face hardships partly because of a lack of strong commitment to the AIDS program by the state government. They demand the government to take immediate action by giving them and their children appropriate support for their livelihood and healthcare. Their basic demands are fair employment, shelter, medical treatment and the recognition of their dignity and unalienable rights.
Article by Julia Lechner
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