Crafting a new life out of waste paper

Anandpur Sahib: Defying all odds and setting an example in society, a group of HIV-positive widows in this Punjab town is successfully running a small-scale business of recycling waste paper and making stationery products out of it.

This group of women is working in association with Panjab University`s Centre of Social Works Department in Chandigarh. The department provides them waste paper and other raw material used in their paper recycle plant.

"My husband died of AIDS. I was very dejected but I had three children and there was nobody to care of them. So I joined hands with other victims of this disease, and got into the business of paper recycling," 28-year-old Neelima Devi told reporters.

"Now I feel very strong and am ready to face all difficulties of life. On the 19th of every month, all HIV-infected people of our area hold a meeting to discuss individual problems. We share our problems and try to find ways to solve them," she added.

Anandpur Sahib town falls in Rupnagar district of Punjab and is around 40 km from state capital Chandigarh.

Manjinder Kaur, 32, another member of the group, said: "I am earning the bread and butter for my children by recycling waste paper for the last two years. We are getting good help from Panjab University."

Talking about the items they prepare, Kaur said: "We make stationery products like diaries, writing pads, colourful paper, gift wrappers and file covers with recycled paper.

"Initially, there were many problems and we also faced the ire of various quarters of society, but now everything is in place."

Students of the Centre of Social Works Department recently organised an exhibition-cum-stall of the products made by these women. The exhibition saw good response.

"Our students collect waste paper from this region and transport them to Anandpur Sahib. We are just playing our social role in uplifting the status of these women," said Gaurav Gaur, assistant professor at the department.

"They are all very determined and strong. Besides dealing with problems in their own lives, they are also running campaigns to educate people about this deadly virus," said Gaur.

Shefali Raheja, another group member, said: "We cannot change our lives, we have to live with the truth...but we do not want others to fall prey to this disease. Therefore, at regular intervals, we go to neighbouring villages and towns to organise seminars and campaigns to educate people about this disease.

"Our business of paper recycling is going very good and we have many clients. We are all self-sufficient and successfully support our families," Raheja, 32, added.


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