Anil (name changed on request), aged 35, residing in Shahdara, has a wife and four children who are in his native village, Bhadau in Uttar Pradesh. Circumstances lead him get infected with HIV/AIDS which resulted in losing his job as tailor in an export company in Okhla, Delhi. Unable to find another job due to frequent infections, he fell in the company of MSMs and joined with them for commercial sex work. He is a man for the day and dresses up like a lady for the night and solicits innocent customers. This went on for years till mid 2010. Our contacts and association with certain groups of MSMs revealed their total indifference towards getting infected or onward transmission of the virus and so is Anil. They do not even care about getting infected with HIV or other diseases and believe that everything, including getting sick as predestined. Such attitude is mainly due to the low status of living coupled with ignorance and dark and gloomy future.
Our Self Help Group under the leadership of Anil for these people have become not only a way for economic stability but also a platform for them to come together, share, learn from each other, respect and help themselves. It has been further found that this social group run under the SHG has become a base for us to give information and education to people in these areas on the spread of HIV/AIDS and its modes of transmission and to fight stigma and discrimination against people infected and affected in the areas. Anil and his colleagues have left their old profession of sex works and took up their own tailoring works with little push and now lead a normal and peaceful life.
Shabeena, (name changed on request), aged 40 now, lost her husband to AIDS in the year 2007. Widowed at the age of just 34, she along with her teen aged daughter, then aged 14, had a hard time. The mother and daughter spent days without proper food and even a good shelter. They couldn't continue living in the rented house since they could not afford the rent after the death of the family's sole income earner. Shabeena recalls how people were forcing her to marry off her then minor teen aged daughter. She says there were older grooms coming to her promising high payment in return for her daughter. She once even thought of sending off her daughter to a rich widower in marriage. However she turned down the offer and took up part time work of washing utensils and cleaning works in three to four houses and managed to have a hand to mouth existence.
It was in the year 2010, Shabeena happened to meet one of our staffs while in the field. She came to our office and saw various social and economic empowerment programs being run for the infected and the affected. She became a member in one of our Self Help Groups and she learnt the basic skills of micro credit and saving. Based on her good performance and regular attendance in the group meetings, she was approved for micro credit which she used for buying gold ornaments for her daughter. She today says that reasons for financial failure is not that the amount of money that we earn. The reason is lack of self discipline and the inability to delay gratification. You have to associate happiness with saving and say, 'I feel happy when I save money.' She maintained a good record in repaying her loan. She applied for an additional loan and was granted, with which she married off her daughter to a private company employed boy last year.
Shabeena is an empowered woman today. With the help of micro credit, her hard work, honesty and self discipline she has established herself in the community. She acknowledges that she learnt self discipline, the art of becoming a different person, keys to personal greatness etc. after her association with Deepti Foundation and its empowerment of people programs. She says with a smile, 'Self Help Groups are micro and their gains are macro.'