With the Covid-19 pandemic worsening in 2021, people across the globe found their lives upended. And this was especially true for women and girls, who found that their lives were being affected most of all.
This pandemic has hit those among us who are the most vulnerable: domestic workers, health workers, daily wagers. And many, many of those are women.
Women who lost employment, and incomes in large numbers. Women who are juggling jobs and increased household work as the care of the entire family falls on their shoulders. Women who have to take care of homes and jobs and children without so much as an expectation of getting help. Girls who dropped out of school and were married off early.
Not just that, there were various issues that went unaddressed at a larger level since the beginning of the pandemic and slipped through the cracks. Breakthrough’s efforts to address issues like impact on mental health in the communities and the youth, misinformation around Covid-19, fake news around vaccines, unequal medical care, children’s safety etc were doubled during the second wave of the pandemic.
This was also a time for us to collaborate with multiple stakeholders and partners working together for an increased engagement with the communities.
We gauged the situation on ground via our assessment study around the impact of Covid-19 on families and communities.
We focused on solutions:
The Silent Pandemic: Domestic Violence
In March 2020, the National Commission For Women stated that domestic violence reports have more than doubled ever since the lockdown began in 2020.
And this when even before the Covid-19 pandemic, domestic violence was a serious concern in India. In fact: “1 in 3 women in India suffer sexual and physical violence at home.”
(Source: National Family Health Survey-4 , 2015-16)
Domestic violence is not a problem that will vanish once this pandemic goes away. It’s a symptom of a larger problem which this crisis has just worsened. So imagine this: A situation where there are already women and girls living in abusive households and who during the lockdown, were being forced to live twenty-four hours in a day under the same roofs as their abusers. And not all women can report. There are unheard voices out there, women who are trapped and unable to report what is happening to them.
We created a compiled SOP on domestic violence reporting that was shared with partner organisations, our field areas and whoever needed the information.
Creating Community Action & Countering Misinformation:
With our Team Change leaders, we were able to create Village Warriors Task Forces. These task groups were set up for Covid relief as Rapid Response, trainings were done by Noora Health and Dakshas as part of Catalyst India – NASE collaborative.
Meetings were held with Block Health Managers in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand where TeamChange Leaders were trained to be the main facilitators.
Currently functional in 19 village clusters in UP and 31 village clusters of Haryana with 700 people as part of the taskforce including parents, youth, community influencers, FLWs, and PRIs.
The groups are working on awareness and myth busting around Covid and vaccinations through wall writing, poster making and slogan writing. They also mobilise support for masks and essential services.
Our Team Change leaders in Jhajjar managed to mobilize 3000 masks and 600 sanitisers with the help of a local organization NIFA and distributed them to workers across 10 brick kilns in Haryana. Team Change leaders also worked to identify those in need for help under the schemes for who lost parents during the Covid.
We created communication toolkits to counter the various elements around the virus, from the importance of testing to preventive measure to vaccine hesitancy. This toolkit was disseminated through Whatsapp forwards in the form of wall writings in the villages, jingles and PSA films. The idea was to help create right passageways of important information for both cutting down on panic as well as indifference towards the virus.
As part of our efforts to look at issues that were apparent as well those that were not getting attention, we partnered with some key partners for creating and disseminating a repository of information.
Awareness creation on usage of masks in partnership with Restart USA via social media content.
Video interviews conducted with Aangan Trust CEO Atiya Bose for disseminating information around children’s safety. Even as the pandemic raged on, one area which was still the least talked about was: COVID’s impact on children.
Covid Sheroes campaign with Twitter India to highlight the work of various women who helped and volunteered for patients of Covid-19 using the Twitter platform during the pandemic.
Training on mental health by Mariwala Mental Health Initiative for the Team Change Leaders to help create safe spaces and engage in conversations around the importance of mental wellbeing.
We are also proud to see our efforts to train our young leaders as Covid Response teams for their communities and our work on creating communication packages on protocols and vaccine myths and hesitancy. At a time when millions of people and vulnerable communities are at risk of being left behind, and where existing support systems have been stretched, collaboration is key.
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