New Delhi: COVID-19 outbreak has presented an unprecedented health emergency worldwide. In India, a large number of possible cases are being tested, quarantined or treated, as the case may be. To contain the spread of the disease, Understanding the symptoms and causes of the COVID-19 infection and adopting appropriate hygiene and physical distancing practices are the need of the hour.
The motivated, enthusiastic and committed approximately 690 lakh women members of around 63 lakh Self Help Groups (SHGs) across the country formed under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), Ministry of Rural Development, have always contributed in addressing economic and social needs that have emerged at the community level. These women are engaged in livelihoods activities, bringing social change through awareness generation, leading movements and responding during natural calamities. During the on-going crisis also, SHG members have emerged as community warriors by contributing in every possible way to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The SHG network across the country was made aware of the various aspects of the disease including the need to maintain personal hygiene, social distancing etc. through Audio Visual (AV) IEC material and advisories developed by Health Ministry which were circulated to all State Rural Livelihoods Missions (SRLMs). All such information, along with material developed by the state governments, are being used by the SRLMs to ensure that the correct message is communicated to the community about all required precautions. The SRLM staff and SHGs members are creating awareness in the local communities by various means like telephone calls, wall writings, pamphlets/fliers etc. Social media is also being used extensively.
SHG volunteers are playing their role in ensuring that people maintain social distancing in markets, PDS shops etc. In Tamil Nadu, two volunteers of SHGs are assigned to each PDS shop. They are provided gloves, masks and sanitisers and they ensure that people in the queue maintain adequate distance.
Some more important interventions by various SRLMs are mentioned here:
Upon declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, JEEViKA, Bihar stepped in and started working on IEC materials that would help in awareness and preparedness for the outbreak. JEEViKA is trying to systematically reach out to a maximum number of households through its 1.4 Lakh SHGs and spread the awareness on topics such as handwash, sanitation, quarantine and isolation and social-distancing. JEEViKA has till date collected mobile numbers more than 1,00,000 of community members and is using the Mobile Vaani platform to release voice messages on COVID-19 and is also addressing the community’s queries through the same.
Rangolis for awareness: SHG women from UP SRLM ‘Prerna’ have used their creativity to make rangolis and mark lines and circles to re-emphasise the need for ‘social distancing’. They have also been making wall paintings to spread key messages about COVID prevention in their communities.
Didi Helpline: The Didi helpline, a telephonic helpline initiated by Jharkhand SRLM, is open 24 hours to help migrant labourers by providing them verified information. It enables them to provide their data to state authorities to help evacuate them from different states, back to Jharkhand.
Efforts to dispel fake news: Notable efforts have been made by women of Kudumbashree in Kerala, to help dispel the widespread fake news that causes panic. Through its network of WhatsApp groups with 1,16,396 Women as members, Kudumbasree is trying to propagate only the right information to the community. These platforms are used specifically to disseminate immediate, authentic information and updates on the outbreak and precautionary measures.
Sustaining their livelihoods through socially responsive contributions in promoting safe hygiene practices within their respective communities, these SHG women have been fighting the COVID-19 outbreak with utmost dedication and devotion. Through many similar responsible collective actions organized across the nation, marginalised and vulnerable women of these communities have played a significant role in the war against Coronavirus while being empowered both socially and economically.