Ten years ago, I traveled to India with friends. On the last day there, I spent some time meeting with prostitutes. I expected to talk to them about the risk of AIDS, but they wanted to talk about stigma. Most of these women had been abandoned by their husbands, and that’s why they’d gone into prostitution. They were trying to make enough money to feed their kids. They were so low in the eyes of society that they could be raped and robbed and beaten by anybody – even by police – and nobody cared.
.. Talking to them about their lives was so moving to me. But what I remember most is how much they wanted to touch me and be touched. It was as if physical contact somehow proved their worth. As I was leaving, we took a photo of all of us with our arms linked together.
.. The stigma of AIDS is vicious – especially for women – and the punishment is abandonment.
.. The community they formed became a platform for everything. They were able to set up speed-dial networks to respond to violent attacks. Police and others who raped and robbed them couldn’t get away with it anymore. The women set up systems to encourage savings. They used financial services that helped some of them start businesses and get out of sex work. This was all done by people society considered the lowliest of the low.
.. The pessimists are wrong in my view, but they’re not crazy. If technology is purely market-driven and we don’t focus innovation on the big inequities, then we could have amazing inventions that leave the world even more divided.