We are very honored to have the opportunity to get to know Mala in Edapady, India through our partner, PCI Global. Just getting this small glimpse into Mala’s life, struggling to live with HIV and trying to raise her children is a wonderful reminder of the fragility of life and the challenge many women face around the world just hoping to make it to 40.
When she was diagnosed 10 years ago, her two sons were very young, just one and three years old. Her husband did not live long past his diagnosis. Mala was lost; however, she found some hope. “Soon after the demise of my husband, I was introduced to the PATHWAY program and I became a Peer Educator. This program equipped me with training and skills which helped me in getting employment even after I completed PATHWAY and I have been able to support my family for the last 10 years.”
She now works as a Field Staff member for the Don Bosco NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). In her position, she interacts with HIV-positive children. Even though she has a job, she considers herself to be struggling – “to meet the growing expenses of the family; I have been supporting my family all alone.”
Shortly after Mala was married her mother died; then she lost her husband. After his death she also lost her only brother. “If I did not have my children I could have ended my life.” Again though, she remains hopeful: “The PATHAWAY program helped me in supporting a number of women and children like me in the community,” she says.
Part of that aloneness is a hard fact: “I am worried about the future of my children; nobody is there to take of my children. My husband, parents and siblings are no more.” Who will take care of her children if Mala does not live long enough to see them grown and with families of their own? This is a hard fact many of the women we have encountered in this project have probably not had to think about when it comes to turning 40. Mala is hoping to just make it to 40, and beyond at least a few years.
“When I thought about being 40, I thought it would be normal and I would be happy with my kids and husband. Due to HIV my future has become dark and I am really worried about the future of my children.” When asked about looking ahead to 50, her answer is very pragmatic: “I want to be healthy and financially strong to take care of my kids.”