INDIA: HIV-Positive Women Get User Rights to Till Land

Linked with Positive Women Network of South India.

Published on IPS, by Nitin Jugran Bahuguna, Sept. 8, 2009.

THIRUNELVELI, India, Sep 8 (IPS) – Till four months back, 33-year-old Mugil hardly ventured out of her parent’s home, preferring to stay indoors and tend to the household chores.

“I had no idea how to cross the road and if I saw a bus coming, I was terrified”, confesses the childless widow from Pambankulam village in Thirunelveli district of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Today, Mugil not only crosses the road from her house but boards the bus to a destination some 12 kilometres away and then walks a few more kilometres to the fields where she works all day, sowing groundnuts and tomatoes.   

Along with 19 other women, all HIV-positive like herself, she toils in hopes of a rich harvest, hopefully in October, which will yield the first promising dividends of a unique venture she and other women have gone into.

In the first experiment of its kind in the country, these women have been given user rights to till 46 acres of land belonging to a multinational organization in Radhapuram village of the district, bordering the state of Kerala.

How does this work? …

… “We approached Suzlon, state agencies and UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) with the idea of increasing women’s resource base in three states of Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Kerala,” says SAFP director Shivani Bhardwaj. “The Radhapuram experiment is the first ever private and public agreement that forms a key step towards building a women’s resource zone.”

The deliberations led to the SF offering two plots, of which 46 acres were allotted for the project and 43 for a similar initiative involving tribal women in the same district.

“Suzlon was keen on helping the local communities’ livelihoods, and while identifying the neediest, excluded but ready to take the challenge, we chose to work with PWN+”, says Seemantinee Khot, SF’s CSR head. “Deprived sections of the society need special support and assistance from corporate, and Suzlon is willing to take this extra step through this conjunctive land use plan.”

“Working in the open air has done wonders for my health. I feel healthy ploughing the land,” says Gayatri. The upcoming harvest is yet another cause for optimism. “We hope to get a good yield of groundnuts.” (full text).

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