Saturday, February 23, 2008

Microfinance and HIV+ Women Living in Panjab

A recent article in the Tribune talks about the formation of a self-help group for Punjabi widows living with HIV. By fighting against the stigma experienced by these women, an initiative has been created to ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS in Punjab can be self-reliant and not be resolved to deal with a lifetime of misery.
Counselled by a local NGO, Ambuja Foundation, these 12 initial members will save Rs 50 each for three months. Out of the Rs 1,800 thus collected, they will open a bank account with Rs 500 and keep the remaining Rs 1,300 to be loaned to members at a nominal interest of 2 per cent. “Hopefully this amount will grow as more people join the group”, says group member Satinder.
Providing microfinance loans to women has been particularly effective and is one of the main ways to help lift women out of poverty. Encouraging women to be self-reliant and providing them with the responsibility of fiscal accountability is instrumental in the empowerment of communities. The article discusses the necessity of this empowerment,
The self-help group not only aims at providing financial support to its members, but also acts as an extended family. “After my husband’s death, my father-in-law tried to rape me. When I resisted I was thrown out of the house. For many months I was not allowed to meet my children. Only recently, this group of HIV positive people accompanied me to my in-laws and confronted them. Seeing so many people come to my support, my children were allowed to come with me”, says Harbans Kaur (name changed) of Heerpur village. The group gives each other moral support besides making others feel cared and wanted in the absence of their own families abandoning them because of prevailing myths about HIV/AIDS.
This seems to be an important step forward in helping to break the barriers of stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and leading to empowerment for women.

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