Despite coming from a family of poor farmers Shilpa’s father ensured she was sent to school, completing her education up to SSC. At 18 she became the second wife of a man whose first wife and son had died. He was illiterate and a known alcoholic with other vices which Shilpa had no control over. Soon she was pregnant and gave birth to a daughter and when her husband’s bad behaviour continued she moved back to her parents’ house with her daughter. There she soon started falling ill and when, after 15 years of marriage, her husband died of HIV Shilpa visited the doctor to find she was also HIV positive.
She says; “Finding out I was HIV positive and not wishing to be a burden on my family I also wanted to ensure a secure future for my daughter who was thankfully HIV free. I came to Snehalaya in 2010 as a beneficiary, assured that staying here would give my life new meaning. I started working in the kitchen then became a caretaker to HIV positive children for over a year until my sewing, cutting and designing skills proved useful for a new vocational training center.
“In 2013, the center transformed into Earth Studio, offering training in clay work, block printing and dying of clothes which I now oversee the day to day running of. Many girls and boys have been trained by me to make special festival decorations, bags, pillow covers, bedsheets, stoles and jewellery available for sale, although the psychological benefits far outweigh any profits made.”
As well as being a skilled teacher who is a role model for girls living with HIV, Shilpaa is also encouraging many to think big by completing a degree in Arts from Yashwantrao Chavan Open University. She really is an inspiration, a very strong willed lady who made her dreams for herself and her daughter a reality.