Report from INN covention at Madurai
The 7th INN Madurai Convention comes to a close...
Report by Bobby Ramakant, HDN Key Correspondent
The 7th INN Madurai Convention came to a close today on February 28, 2003, after nearly 3 days of sharing and discussions on issues around HIV/AIDS. It brought together about 254 NGOs from 15 states and few international resource people like Dr. Anthony Klouda (MP, Ghana), Dr. Kate Tulenko (World Bank), and Dr. Binod Mahanty (WHO).
Dr. Radium Bhattacharya, INN President, delivered concluding remarks. She said that it is time to realize that we are not working with a virus we cannot see, but with human beings we can see, and feel and share with. She said that no human behaviour could be guided, changed or reformed by statistics alone, but rather with love and compassion...
Dr. Bhattacharya went ahead to state that people feel most safe, secure and loved in strong communities with human bonding, and not within the jargonistic world of medicine and research. So if NGOs want to work more closely and have more trustworthy relationships with people with or affected by HIV, we need to address issues beyond the virus – and step into a human zone where there are human issues of depression, of loss of self worth, of low self esteem, of anger, of frustration, of outbursts.
We all need more humanity and humility while dealing with the community we serve back home. We need to accommodate other people's limitations and shortcomings and also appreciate their strengths while working together.
It is a very gratifying moment for her personally, she said, to witness the entire convention being held in Tamil Nadu – the very state that had the first case of HIV in India seventeen years back. The convention has given Tamil Nadu's NGOs an opportunity to share experiences with NGOs in the remaining 15 Indian states, and for NGOs from outside Tamil Nadu to learn how a high prevalence state like Tamil Nadu is gearing up to control and prevent HIV/AIDS.
She said there was a compelling need to reflect back and reinterpret many things we take for granted, like what are we working for – for a project or as service to our community? For whom are we working – for our funders or for our community?
Mr. Korah Mathen, senior founder Governing Council member and secretary of INN, delivered the vote of thanks. This needs mention because this was not a conventional 'thank you' ceremony, rather he focused on the need to understand HIV positive people more, learn from them and work with them. He cited an example of a sex worker who narrated that she had to sell her body "when government took away her forests." The forest was daily living the social security of her tribal community. Modernization swept across India and snatched up forests. The community (and thus she) she was denied entry because those were now 'protected national sanctuaries and government property' for big dam projects. Eventually the dam came, and her land submerged. Her life disintegrated around her and she was forced to take shelter in the cities. In the cities, she had nothing to sell or earn money from, but her body. In the process, she contracted HIV.
This is a story of the realities of HIV. HIV transmission occurs within social, economic, environmental and political constructs – often aided by poverty, desperate survival techniques and ignorance. This is a societal concern, not a merely a medical one. This calls on our collective responsibility – be it in society or within INN.
The 8th National Convention of Indian Network of NGOs on HIV/AIDS (INN) is planned for 2004 in Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh (UP). This state is the largest and most populated. Its health infrastructure and particularly surveillance system is quite poor, if not non–existent.
Bharosa Trust and Naz Foundation International's Lucknow Liaison office took up the responsibility of being the local host to INN members for the 8th INN in last week of January 2004. A proposed theme of the next convention by the delegates themselves is ”Social Justice, Human Rights and Dignity of Life for all”.
HDN Key Correspondent