The story of Asha Jat
Raising from the Ashes
Nothing special about her, anyone who occasioned to an impromptu walk through a north Indian village could easily identify her as a mere ‘usual’ silent presence and a typical ‘proper’ women in Indian rural milieu. Her name is Asha , belongs to the very traditional Jat community from an interior village in Ajmer district of Rajasthan. She should do veil her face and don’t raise her voice as dictated by the community cultural norms whenever she stepped out of her home and talking to men, for being women the practice is often considered as simple as normal.
As child marriage have been a trend in her village, Asha, her mother and her siblings were all being the victims of child marriage. At the age of 9, her marriage was duly being done as arranged by her family with a person 22 years older than her. For doing her bit in maintaining the family she became a daily wage laborer at the age of 11. Her life came to a standstill when her husband died due to HIV/AIDS when she was 15 years old and pregnant. Later she was tested HIV positive. All the havoc wreaked by the post HIV scenario felled on her as she was expelled from her husband’s home without any rightful share of her property as a wife. At the age of 16, her ordeal exacerbated as she lost her newborn child. At a tender age she had to face a lot of adversities, even though she was able to keep up her calm and perseverance in that traumatic and harrowing state of affairs. Meanwhile, she did a lot of things in the middle to gain the ground to build up her life from the tatters. The turbulent times she had gone through made her stronger enough and she decided to dedicate her for other women living with HIV in the community to fight for their cause. On her own mettle she passed Matriculation and Higher Secondary exams.
Asha, leading in front organizing the women living with HIV in Rajasthan, founded ‘Saksham’, the Ajmer chapter of Positive Women Network (PWN+) in the year 2013. Asha has imbibed new energy through the relentless activities in Saksham and became a catalyst in sparkling new hope and spirit among the people living with HIV in her district. It enabled people living with HIV voicing their concerns and led them accessing government health services and welfare schemes. As working in Rajasthan’s most high-prevalence HIV belt, Nasirabad, Saksham has ensured de-stigmatized counselling and enabled 6,011 women, children and men living with HIV to get access to free treatment and nutritional supplements. And also working round in forefront, Asha has opened up livelihood opportunities for 50 women living with HIV. Every month, Saksham has directly provided nutritional supplements to 85 women living with HIV, who are the poorest of poor. As a part of consolidating the network and making it more sustainable, Saksham began to seek support from other agencies, as a result “Srimathi Sanchan Devi Bal Chand Lunawat,” a local NGO that serving the cause of underprivileged, has come forward and now lent primary support to the network. Today Asha is taking responsibility in leading the people living with HIV to make their life worth living, particularly she focused more on the issues of women and children, making them empower to fight for their rights as citizens who deserved equality, dignity and respect in every aspect.
Asha is one of the few women in her community who got the opportunity accessing higher education. Alongside with her activism, Asha completed her Teacher’s Training course; her dream is to become a teacher par excellence who serving the cause of society. Asha has been duly recognized and honoured for her work, the Women Exemplar Award in the category of Health conferred upon her by the CII Foundation as a part of its Women Exemplar Programme in April 2018. The Hon’ble Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu presented the award to her at a function in New Delhi.
Due to HIV Asha’s life has torn from dehumanizing fissures, in a sense it is quite dismal in retrospective, but she has gone through it with sheer determination and courage, and on her own accord she would make things happen and regained her life in its full bloom, inciting hope and promise for many other women living with HIV in the community.