Understanding its Impact on Marginal Groups and Populations
Panel 1: COVID-19 and Gender Justice: Is the Response Adequate?
Date: Thursday, May 28, 2020, Time: 10.30 to 12.30 hrs.
Moderator: Dr. Kanchan Mathur, Honorary Professor, Independent Consultant and Gender Expert, Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur
Pushpa Mai, Founder Nai Bhor, Jaipur, a CBO working for the rights of transgender persons; she is a well-known transgender leader in Rajasthan and member of the transgender board. Strong advocate of transgender rights across the State, she has been involved in facilitating relief and financial assistance to vulnerable transgender with support of the local government.
Basanta Nayak is the Senior Programme Manager at the Centre for Youth and Social Development in Odisha, an organization working with urban poor communities for over four decades. An expert on gender budgeting, he is presently involved in leading the organization’s work on SDG Goals which, he believes, has to be shaped by the people.
Meera Parida, Founder, SAKHA, a CBO working for rights and entitlement of transgender. As a member of the Odisha Kinnar Samaj she has represented the concerns of transgender at many national and international forums including the International Visitor Leadership Programme. Meera anchors a TV programme Bhinna Manush Bhinna Katha to sensitize people to issues related to transgender.
Shobhita Rajagopal, is an Associate Professor and Officiating Director of the Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur. She has extensive experience of working on gender and intersectionality issues cutting across sectors including education of marginalized girls, MHM and gender mainstreaming.
The key questions deliberated upon during the panel discussions were as follows:
While explaining the main objective of the Webinar, Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director, Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) stated that for organizations like CFAR who are deeply inured in community engagement processes with the teams literally spending time from dawn to dusk with the community listening to them, deliberating with them, planning and acting together in many ways from organizing campaigns, holding stakeholder consultations and advocating jointly with policy makers, the pandemic is now posing new challenges. With no large gatherings allowed and movement restricted, the time has now come to regroup and change ones tactics of community mobilization and collective action. We need to invest in each individual community member, strengthen leadership of each person, connect digitally and enable every person to participate, shape local action, get their voice heard and assert their agency. To enable this to happen, CFAR with the support of Water for Women (WFW) and DFAT organized the three-panel webinar on COVID 19- Understanding the Impact of the Pandemic on Marginal Groups and Populations on 28-29 May, 2020, and brought together experts, civil society and community leaders to weigh in on each of the themes especially in the context of COVID and to empower each of the community members with renewed perspective on what more we need to do with even greater conviction to enhance gender sensitivity, social inclusion and universal access to safe WASH services. She concluded by stating that this alone will enable us to secure the policy and budgetary support for a pro-poor COVID response and recovery.
Pushpa Mai said that the funds for COVID were not reaching the Transgender community. There is no mention of transgender in Government Orders and Directives related to COVID-19 response. Transgender persons are stereotyped and seen as earning their livelihood by singing and dancing at weddings and collecting alms on auspicious occasions. We, therefore, need to sensitise the administration by organizing workshops to address their inherent prejudices against the community and make them aware of the issues faced by the community.
Pushpa asserted that there is an urgent need to build capacities of transgender leaders and community representatives to take forward WASH issues, especially, in the current scenario of COVID-19. She also spoke about the efforts being made to secure inclusive toilets for the community for which she has approached the Jaipur Municipal Corporation to adopt trans-friendly signage in public toilets and construct dedicated toilets for transgender users.
Basanta Nayak pointed out that gender was not adequately integrated in the COVID response efforts of the Odisha government. He highlighted the three primary challenges faced by the urban poor. These were:
Basanta stressed on the importance of gender-being a cross cutting concern-to be made an integral part of the city planning and budget allocation.
To address these challenges, he proposed setting up of a ‘knowledge network’ which will focus on gender planning, budgeting and strengthening the institutional mechanisms instituted by the government. On the latter, he opined that given the fact that the public finance framework is not gender sensitive, there is an urgent need to evolve alternatives and even models to demonstrate that it is possible and essential. He also stressed on the need to strengthen accountability mechanisms, without which gender integration would be a challenge.
In the current context in Odisha, the role of the village head or sarpanch in managing livelihoods especially of migrant labour is indicating a shift towards decentralization. Basanta appealed for deepening these practices so that there is meaningful decentralization.
Meera Parida said that neither society nor government had given any thought on how transgender persons would cope and meet their basic needs during the lockdown. The Finance Minister of the country also did not mention transgender when she announced her economic package for all marginalized communities to off-set the crippling effects of both the pandemic and the lockdown.
She also dwelt on the fact that transgender was not a homogenous group and like all other groups they have within their ranks the elderly, unmarried and those with disability and they face the same set of challenges as others. To date there are no quarantine facilities in Orissa or Rajasthan for transgender persons. They are not so small in number that they can be ignored by those managing the pandemic, she added.
The 73d Constitutional Amendment gave reservation of seats to 33 percent women. However, the transgender was not granted any reservation and been socially excluded in diverse ways. People are experiencing lockdown now but transgender has been experiencing social lockdown since birth.
Speaking about WASH services, Meera pointed out that a large majority of transgender were either homeless or lived in rented premises. Post the pandemic they have been evicted by the landlords, hence, how could they be expected to wash hands frequently to protect themselves against the virus, when they do not even have a roof over their head? Transgender also live together in cramped spaces and social distancing is not easy.
She said that her organization SAKHA would want to work with CFAR at the advocacy level to include rights of transgender in all policy formulations and during planning of programmes and services during COVID- 19.
Shobhita Rajagopal began her presentation by saying that COVID-19 had disrupted the lives of the people but the most impacted were the most vulnerable and marginal sections of society. She highlighted that several services had been disrupted during COVID-19 including sexual and reproductive health services, midday meal in schools, distribution of sanitary napkins, and education of children belonging to marginalized families.
The existing inequalities have grown and the administrative response has been gender neutral so far. But if we have to address the differential needs of communities and groups including women, men, children (boys and girls), and transgender, a Gender Task Force needs to be constituted to assess the impact of the pandemic and the response of the government, she suggested.
Gender lens is missing in policy making, planning and implementation of initiatives and measures to prevent and manage the virus. For this to be set right, we need to collate gender disaggregated data so that all response is informed by it.
In the discussion that followed, the panelists responded to the questions posed to them. Some specific points were made:
Shobhita and Basant said that as May 28 is observed as Menstrual Hygiene Management Day, it was absolutely essential for all stakeholders to address issues related to MHM in an integrated manner. However, local solutions need to be devised to address issues effectively. One suggestion was to enable Self-help groups to produce sanitary napkins and sell them and do this at scale by building on existing efforts. In Jaipur, the police department had also distributed sanitary napkins. Menstrual waste must be disposed properly to ensure safe sanitation.
Meera and Pushpa responding to the inclusion of transgender needs and demands in the COVID response and planning by suggesting that there was an urgent need to sensitize the administration on their identity related issues and their capability and needs.
All panelists agreed that with violence against women and especially against transgender having increased during the time of COVID, some institutional mechanism needs to be set up and to begin with more Helplines need to be put in place to enable women who are experiencing violence can secure timely help and support. There is also a need to set up a greater number of Gender Cells and build capacities of people managing these cells.
The panel highlighted the need to conduct a gender analysis study to assess the impact of the economic package and the benefits that have accrued or expected to accrue to different sections and constituencies.
To ensure a gendered COVID-19 response, the following recommendations were made
FEEDBACK FROM COMMUNITY REPRESENTATIVES, BHUBANESWAR AND JAIPUR
Happy to find transgender issues being discussed
Divyanshi Jena, Kaberi Nayak, Jaquleen Kinner, Transgender community representatives, Bhubaneswar
We are very happy to see Meera Maa and Pushpa ji talking about our issues and so many people discussing about our problems, which is never discussed anywhere. This gives us confidence that we are being heard and looked after.
Ramzana, Community Management Member, Hathroi, Jaipur
It has been a wonderful experience to see Transgender and women experts from Bhubaneswar and Jaipur at one place and hear them discuss on issues related to women and transgender.
Deepak Behera, Youth Club member, Bhubaneswar
We really liked the discussion and we also understand the concerns of Transgenders. We also wanted to know more about the problems of women migrants, as we have been hearing in news about their difficulties.
Would have liked to hear and learn more
Sanju, Community Management member, Brajlalpura, Jaipur
We would also like to hear from experts about women headed households, experiences of single women, and women managing households with a large number of family members
Arati Jena, Mahila Aarogya Samiti, Bhubaneswar
We want to discuss about problems faced by women in our community. We also want to know about the problems other women are facing in different places all over the country. We would like to hear more on gender roles, and on what a woman can do to help other community members during this pandemic
Manju, Community Management member, Brajlalpura
We would like to hear personal experiences and case studies of women and transgender from Jaipur as well as other cities
Asha Samal, Single Window Forum member, Dumduma Pana Sahi, Bhubaneswar
We would also like to know the situation of women in other parts of the country. Are the women facing domestic violence at other places as we have been hearing many such cases in news.
Need solutions and know how to overcome problems
Kaberi Bhoi , Adolescent Group, Dumduma Bhoi Sahi, Bhubaneswar
I could understand whatever the panelists were saying and liked the discussion on problems related to menstruation faced by girls during lockdown. Would like to know more on the solutions and the help we are going to get to overcome them?
Veerender Sahu, Slum Development Committee member, Brajlalpura, Jaipur
There is a need for a capacity building and sensitization program for the participants on gender, transgender and women’s issues. Dr. Shobhita mentioned about the Gender Task Force. We heard about gender budgeting for the first time. This will help them become familiar with some terms which are used in such sessions.
Make the discussion more interactive and in local language
Mumtaz, CMC Member, Hathroi
The CFAR team members explained what was being said to us but there were many places where English was used. It would be preferable if Hindi or our local language is used to help us understand better
Veerender Sahu, Slum Development Committee member, Brajlalpura, Ramzana, Community Management Member, Hathroi, Jaipur
We would like to get an opportunity to ask questions directly and also participate in the discussions. A question-answer session between the panelists and participants will be nice.
Santoshi Sahoo, Community Management member, Bhubaneswar
We liked the topic of the discussion as it is very relevant to our context, but we faced problem in understanding both English and Hindi, and would prefer Odia.
“We, women not only need dry ration, milk and grocery during this difficult time, we also need peace of mind and harmony at home and in our basti. With lines of men queuing up from 4 am in the morning, drunken brawls and abuses waking us early in the morning, we decided it was high time that we took matters in our hands and thus our struggle to stop the sale of liquor began…” says Kamlesh.
When the Delhi government declared lockdown and police barricades were installed all around Okhla, the only source of home brewed liquor was the corner house in Mazdoor Kalyan Camp. The police had sealed all the lanes and entry points across most bastis leaving a lane or two allow residents access to the main Okhla Road.
However, since March 22, we observed that the number of people standing at the entrance of the lane leading to Mazdoor Kalyan Camp to purchase liquor was increasing every day. Since all liquor shops in the adjoining areas were closed, men from all the neighbouring bastis flocked to our camp to purchase home brewed liquor, blocking the entrance and making it impossible for women and men to move around freely.
We, members of the Community Management Committee, made several attempts to reason with the two liquor shop vendors to persuade them to stop the sale. Our pleas fell on deaf ears. We were told, “Do as you wish. I know many influential people in this area. I supply them with freshly brewed liquor and as long as I have their support no one can stop me from doing as I please.”
We tried many other techniques. We drove the men away, abused and argued with them, and even threatened to call the police but nothing seemed to work in our favour and the business continued to flourish.
This became almost a daily affair and we often returned home feeling angry, helpless and defeated.
On the morning of April 21, Kamal, Vidya’s son told us that there was a scuffle at the end of the lane between two men over one bottle of liquor. The fight had turned ugly and a crowd had gathered around; some men and women from our camp were trying to stop the fight. Vidya and Kamal also intervened but the men would not stop.
We were scared and alarmed so we made a call on 181 Women in Distress helpline expecting the PCR van to come and set matters right. However, there was no response for over forty-five minutes. Meanwhile, we made several calls to police helpline 100 and in a few minutes Mukhtar Ahmad, Beat Officer and Head Constable Ashvani Mongra came to the camp. Hearing the police siren, the crowd dispersed and the men fled. The police officials asked us to make a written complaint and helped us detail out the concerns. They also assured us of their full support and promised to come the following morning. A patrolling vehicle was also stationed on the main road to keep a 24×7 hour vigil.
The next morning Mukhtar Ahmad, Beat Officer and Head Constable Ashvani Mongra reached the camp with their teams early in the morning. Assisted by CMC members they searched the house and collected all evidence. They however could not nab the two men as someone had leaked the information and they had escaped. Both police officials went door to door and spoke to the residents. They recorded testimonies, made notes, and collected signatures the next day orders for sealing the house were received and since that day sale of liquor has stopped.
“While we women from the CMC made our own efforts, we would like to place on record and acknowledge the support and trust which the two police officials Mukhtar Ahmad, Beat Officer and Head Constable Ashvani Mongra, placed in us. They not only believed us but also helped us complete the documentation formalities and also assured all residents that in case of any problems they were just a call away. They are regularly visiting the camp and even assisting us in distribution of dry food kits, added Mukesh.
“You are working with us as part of our team, so it our duty to offer you all our help. It is because of the good work that the CMC members are doing that the image of police is gradually improving. You have helped bridge the gap between the community and us and we thank you for making this happen”— Mukhtar Ahmad, Beat Officer.
“We are working round the clock but police cannot reach everywhere. We need your support to act as our eyes and ears in the community. We are also gratified that you are updating us on a regular basis, informing us about areas where we can work with you such as distributing ration kits“— Head Constable Ashvani Mongra.
As narrated by Vidya, Kamlesh, Rajkumari, Pista, Jyoti, Sunita and Mukesh
The Milk Story-Delhi
In partnership with Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), CFAR is facilitating children in the age group 0-6 years to get half litre toned milk every alternate day.
When CFAR began relief operations in the most vulnerable settlements of Delhi immediately after the lockdown, we started getting requests for milk and biscuits for children in the age group 0-6 years. With parents having lost their livelihood due to the pandemic were left with little cash in hand. This was impacting the purchasing power of households directly, forcing them to compromise on items such as milk and biscuits. As one mother, Jyoti told us: “My husband is a daily wage worker and I do domestic work. We have both lost our jobs and have limited cash to take care our daily needs. The government and other relief agencies are providing dry ration kits but no milk powder or any other nutritional supplement for our children. We, therefore, have to feed our children with rice and dal water.”
Given the urgency, CFAR appealed to the Advisory Task Force of the Delhi government for providing some measure of support to families with children in the age group 0-6 years.
In keeping with this, DPCPR began a campaign partnering with CSOs to provide half litre milk every alternate day for children across Delhi settlements. The money for the milk was raised by partners with support of DCPCR.
CFAR supported DCPCR by enlisting children, identifying vendors, facilitating meetings between DCPCR Rapid Action team and point persons (who introduced the families) and ensuring distribution of packets to enlisted HHs.
On April 19, 2020, as many as 231 children were given milk packets. These were from six settlements- JJ Camp Anand Vihar, Khichdipur, Mazdoor Kalyan Camp I, B 45 Sanjay Camp, Gautampuri, and Indra Kalyan Vihar.
The distribution was facilitated by Community Management Committee (CMC) members, many of whom are ASHA, ICDS workers, SHG members and Swachha Grahi working in partnership with the Delhi government for over two years, with CFAR.
In JJ Camp Anand Vihar, Heera and Surekha reached out to 22 children. Heera, is a Swachhagrahi, ASHA worker and a PLV under DLSA, East.
Heera told us, “I have no children of my own, but all these are my children and I am happy that the government is thinking of our children”. Surekha, also an ASHA worker added: ”This is double benefit for me, I can help households with children and also give information on handwashing and social distancing as part of my work.”
In Khichdipur, Priya and Madhu, both members of CMC and SHG delivered milk packets to 27 families. Priya said: “I felt very happy and relieved. Children need nutrition and to keep them healthy milk is necessary.” Madhu, also said: “The lockdown has affected households where income is low and children are the most affected as families have to curtail expenditure and milk is one of the first items they have stopped buying.”
Priyanka, who is a member of the adolescent forum and SHG in Indra Kalyan Vihar wants to make her settlement an ideal one and started training women in making handicrafts and selling them. “This is a welcome initiative; Parents feel helpless as they do not have money as all work has stopped. Getting some relief for the children is welcome.”
Munni, CMC member, added: “Children need nutrition to remain healthy. Parents blessed us and thanked us for helping them. I feel grateful for this opportunity to help 12 households in my basti”.
In B-45 Sanjay Camp, Anita and Pushpa had a big responsibility of reaching 80 households. Anita is a Swachhagrahi and a Master trainer. She told us: “In this time of crisis, all of us have to help each other. My children are grown up and I am happy to work with mothers to run errands and deliver milk at home.” Pushpa, CMC member is an Anganwadi helper. She said: “This campaign must be taken to all settlements and across the city. Even after the lockdown this initiative should be made a part of the Anganwadi services so that children in the age group 0-6 years can get adequate nutrition”.
Members from the Baba Sahib Sakhi Sanitary Napkin unit in Mazdoor Kalyan Camp, have now opened the door of their unit for relief. Vidhya, Swachhagrahi, SHG and unit member, said: “Our unit is not functioning so we are supporting CFAR in distributing dry rations. Today, we distributed milk and everyone around told us it was a good effort.”
Jyoti, also a member of the CMC and the unit added, “One good deed begets another, we went door to door giving milk, immediately after we received a call from another NGO asking for packets of sanitary napkins to distribute in other slums. We have been rewarded.”
Last but not the least, three Mahila Panchayat Group members Sarita, Jyoti, Shabnur, linked 63 children to the milk campaign in Gautampuri. Sarita, is an active legal help desk member who said: “A few days back I was taking cases to Mahila Panchayat office, now I taking milk. It is all the same-helping those in need.” Shabnur said: “I was very surprised when I received a call from Vartika that we can supply milk to HHs in Gautampuri. I thought someone was joking with me but when all three of us received the packets we were eager to help,” Jyoti, shared similar sentiments: “Elders in the family blessed us. A mother blessed my children. It is an opportunity to serve my own community and in this time we all have to work together.”
Ms Ranjana Prasad, Member, DCPCR has offered to support CFAR in raising funds for providing milk to children across settlements.
In her message to CFAR, in response the first day delivery and photographs she shared: “Amazing…Its a moment for me…”
To take this campaign to other settlements, we are enlisting, many more children from most hidden and excluded population including children affected by HIV.
Who is Making the Difference?
Shri Pawan Kumar, Secretary, DLSA East
Over the past six months, we have closely interacted with Shri Pawan Kuman, Secretary DLSA, East. Mr Kumar is a Metropolitan Magistrate cum Civil Judge with a career spanning over ten years. He has presided over several landmark Civil and Criminal cases and has been designated as DLSA Secretary, East district since 2017.
Mr Kumar has shown his exemplary pro-people leadership in more than one ways.
Setting up First Legal Help Desk in East district in collaboration with CBO for free legal aid services:
In February 2020, DLSA East inaugurated a legal help desk in Kalyanpuri Block 18 managed by the Satark Yuva Sangathan (SYS), a community-based organization. The help desk focused on involving men and boys in fostering a more caring environment for women, elderly, and children. In his inaugural address Mr Pawan Kumar stated, “DLSA takes legal services to every citizen and facilitates for every household free and timely legal help. The motto with which DLSA works is “justice for all” and “justice at your doorstep”. It is with this objective that the legal help desk will work in Kalyanpuri to enable the community to seek information, redress and support in a convenient and simple manner and bring peace, harmony and equality at home.”
As the lockdown in Delhi was declared, Mr Pawan Kumar extended his support to partner with CFAR to reach the vulnerable poor communities in JJ clusters for an integrated COVID 19 response. To begin with, he designated nine paralegal volunteers to work on a daily basis with CFAR. The PLVs were tasked to support the most vulnerable and marginalised groups of unorganised workers, street vendors, sex workers, destitute and alms collectors in getting access to cooked food twice a day through the community kitchens set up by the Delhi government. The PLVs were also involved in the distribution of dry food, hygiene kits, filling e-coupons, registering unorganised construction (ironsmiths engaged in layering iron mesh during construction) workers for access to Labour Card and renewal of registration . He said: “There is so much more we all need to do as a part of the COVID 19 response. This is just a small beginning. Organisations like DLSA do not know how to reach the people directly. We, therefore, work with NGOs and CBOs and help them in enabling the poor to access their rights and entitlements. This time we would like to help unorganised migrant workers engaged in construction work to secure the benefit of financial assistance of Rs 5000 declared by the Delhi government.”
Besides rendering legal support in his official capacity as a Judge and Secretary DLSA , Shri Pawan Kumar also leaves no stone unturned to help the most affected and at risk populations in case of any emergency. A recent incident proves this.
On April 27, CFAR approached him for support in getting an eleven year old child suffering from secondary tuberculosis infection admitted to the nearest hospital in response to an SOS message we received from the child mother. The affected family was running from pillar to post trying to get their critically ill child who was having breathing difficulty a hospital bed but most hospitals did not admit them as the ICU facility was not available.
Our team member Shashi, who is also a PLV with DLSA approached the Secretary and requested him to intervene. Shri Pawan Kumar immediately spoke to the CMO at Chacha Nehru Hospital, opposite Karkardooma Courts to ensure that the child is admitted and given emergency treatment and medication. He directed his office to make all arrangements for registration at the hospital while the child was taken to the hospital. Having done this he directed SHO, Kalyanpuri to draw up a list of essential food items which the family needed and facilitated doorstep delivery.
He has shared his number with the family and requested Shashi to keep him informed. He has also directed his office to keep in touch with the doctors and monitor the progress on the case.
We called to thank him for support he provided to CFAR and he responded as follows: ”This is a time when all of us have to stretch ourselves and help those in need. If I am able to bring some respite to a struggling family and save their child then I will not miss the opportunity. I have done this as my contribution to the commendable work CFAR is doing to help the poor.”
Who has made a difference?
Community Management Commitee and Youth
Heera, Community Management Committee, Swachha Grahi, Asha worker, Paralegal Volunteer and SHG member
36 years, Anand Vihar Jhuggi.
“I find serving my community gratifying. This is my extended family. We share happiness and sorrows together. I have no children of my own so helping other with small children makes me happy and content and that is why I am supporting the relief work,” says Heera Community Management Committee member.
Heera (36) wears many hats. She is also a Swachha Grahi and ASHA worker in addition to paralegal volunteer and self-help group member.
She has been associated with CFAR for over two years now. “It has been an enriching experience for me to work in the community. As an ASHA Sahyogini, we were providing information related to health and personal hygiene. When I became a member of the Community Management Committee of CFAR we began to understand the link between poor sanitation and weak health and immunity.’’
“Then I registered myself as a paralegal volunteer and received training on legal rights of women, and girls. This helped me realise the importance of knowing your own rights. There were many things even I did not know,’’ Heera says.
Then, the COVID 19 infection began and poor vulnerable families with no regular income and daily jobs approached her for support in terms of food. With the help of other members of the Community Management Committee, Heera began to make lists of those who needed grocery and food grains. “We worked closely with other members in the community and delivered food kits to the most vulnerable with elderly, PwD, young children and ill family members.’’
The team helped Ram, who is physically disabled, get a gas cylinder and dry ration so that he could cook his own food and have two square meals a day. “My colleague Surekha and I are also distributing half-a-litre milk packets and cornflakes every two days to 22 families with infants. I have also counselled many women and mediated fights as the men are at home and are stressed because they do not have jobs.’’
Reena, Community Management Committee, and SHG member, of Janta Jeevan Camp in Okhla, is a confident woman today. She is able to talk to officials without being scared.
“I also constantly remind children, elderly and mothers to wash hands at least six times a day and sip warm water. Prevention is better than cure I tell them and we all have to keep ourselves safe from Coronavirus.”
With the rising COVID 19 infection, people living in slums are more at risk as lanes are narrow and houses next to each other. Social distancing is difficult and sometimes next to impossible. “I have, therefore, made it my mission to ensure that when people move or talk, they wear a mask and maintain at least one hand distance.’’
“Another thing close to my heart is respect for sanitation workers and those who are keeping our basti clean, and taking our waste to minimise the risk of infections. We have to understand that they are also human beings and are risking their health for us.’’
Reena’s husband in a sanitation worker who collects waste from the settlement and surrounding areas. “I help him in this work by persuading families to use dustbins and not pile up waste in lanes and drains. When workers from the South Delhi Municipal Committee come to our basti, we help them in picking up household items so that the area can be swept properly, offering them water to wash their hands and talking to them politely. My husband also helps Community Management Committee members from the neighbouring basti if the waste is not removed.’’
Along with members of the Community Management Committee, she made a list of most poor families who need support in getting dry food from ration shops. For now, that ration given by CFAR will last for one month but she wants to help them to fill e-coupons so that they are not dependent or deprived of their share.
Raj Pradeep (22), Youth Volunteer from Shiv Vihar Phase 7, says he is never worried or disappointed. “There is a silver lining behind every cloud. These trying times and COVUD 19 will also pass sooner than later. What is important is that we do not give up hope, do not feel we are alone and do stop believing in ourselves,”
The CFAR team first met him when he came up to them and offered to help in filling up compensation forms, distributing relief, facilitating filing of FIRs and consoling household who had lost everything during the recent riots. When asked why he wanted to do this work, he said: “This work gives me a sense of fulfilment. I like helping people in need. Over the past few years, I have taken up many big and small jobs in companies like Vodafone, but the satisfaction I receive in supporting the needy was missing.”
Raj lives with his younger siblings and mother. To meet the daily needs of the family, his mother makes soft toys for a factory. His brothers are studying. But the riots changed everything. “Ma and I both lost our jobs. I started doing small home-based work to support the family. Since I had free time, I decided to volunteer for relief support with NGOs who were coming to Shiv Vihar and plunged whole heartedly in supporting relief and rehabilitation processes initiated by CFAR.’’
“Now I realise that this work makes me happy. With the pandemic spreading in the city, many fellow residents lost their livelihood. When CFAR began its relief operations I helped in the distribution of dry grains to the most vulnerable families of Gadaria Lohars, Janta Mazdoor Colony, Seelampur, Shakti Colony and Sunlight Colony. I also supported CFAR in making lists of families with no ration cards so that we could fill E-coupons for them.’’
He has also readied a group of volunteers who are providing care and support to families with elderly parents, young children, and single women. The groups support them by running errands, delivering food kits and other relief materials and helping them fill E-coupons.
Mohammad Kaif, grassroots communicator and Male Forum member from New Sanjay Camp at Okhla and his friends are regularly collecting donations to provide cooked khichdi to destitute and elderly people who are living on the roadside. “Nowadays, there very few people on the road so these poor communities do not get any alms, food or help. We do not want anyone to sleep hungry and this is a small effort from our side to help those who are most needy.”
Kaif (18), also member of the CFAR nukkad natak team since 2016, comes from a very poor family in Lucknow. His seven siblings and parents live in New Sanjay camp as they do not have enough money to buy their own house.
“Working with CFAR has changed my attitude towards life. Earlier, I spent my time sitting idle but once I learnt how to write and perform street plays, there was no looking back. We supported CFAR team in everything they did– from wall paintings on handwashing to sweeping the camp, segregating wet and dry waste and now making lists of very weak families for helping them get rations.’’
“Since, I enjoy communicating with people, I have made videos and WhatsApp messages on prevention of coronavirus infection, proper technique of handwashing, how to make and wear a mask, and need and benefits of social distancing,’’ Kaif says.
When CFAR distributes food grain kits in the camp, Kaif make coupons and distributes them to all those in the list. Keeping in mind the social distancing protocols, Kaif then draws a circle in the open space of the camp and requests people to come and stand inside them when the token number is called out.
“The ration kit is handed out and our team members help them carry it back home. In this manner all distribution happens without any confusion.’’
Bangalore – Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), with the support of Single Window team, Help-desk, and ASHA workers made door-to-door visits to the house of the construction workers living in settlements and disseminated information on safety and precautions to be taken for prevention of COVID-19 infection. Health camps were also organised for the construction and casual workers in the settlement in collaboration with National Health Mission and the local Primary Health Centre (PHCs).
Single Window team is coordinating with ASHA workers and identified construction sites in 121 Wards. Help-desk members, Lalitha and Manjula helped ASHA workers to identify construction workers for health check-up at doorsteps and 325 members underwent health check-up by national Health Mission Medical Officer.
Health check-up for Pourakarmikas (Sanitation workers)
Similarly, Single Window– coordinated with Primary Health Centres in Binnipete—also organised a health camp in collaboration with BBMP under the National Health Mission on 14 April 2020 at Magadi Road Primary Health Centre where 120 paurakarmikas or sanitation workers underwent health check-up.
Parvathi (35) is a sanitation worker and her husband works as a driver in BBMP garbage transportation unit. They have 3 children. The family has been living at Magadi Road II- Cross in for the past 10 years. She pays Rs. 4000 as rent and has been working as a pourakarmikas for the past 8 years.
She has received safety kits such as mask, hand sanitizers, hand gloves and shoes from BBMP and on 14 April 2020 underwent a medical health check-up and COVID-19 test though she does not have any symptoms. However, she feels good and safe because she works in this critical situation where she is vulnerable.
“In my team, we are 120 workers and none of them have been identified with any health problems. In the current situation, we have to leave our children alone at home and do worry about them when we go to work. BBMP provides us breakfast and lunch. Single Window team has distributed dry ration in my locality and I have also received a kit.”
Advocacy with policy and decision makers
CFAR is working closely with State level Covid-19 Disaster Management Committee on different issues. The Committee, comprising 15 IAS officers, relate to medical emergency management plan, disease surveillance, testing and critical care training, ensuring availability of essential medical equipment, and coordinating with private sector NGOs and international organizations for response related to activities, economic and welfare measures, among others. The Committee is also responsible for migrant issues including coordinating food and other supplies and stay/ temporary shelter for migrant labourers.
Submission of issues related to immediate relief
CFAR documented 6 issues related to construction workers living in settlements without food and basic amenities, difficulties of people living with HIV to access ART (Anti Retroviral Therapy) and transport to reach ART centres to collect medicine, distribution of tablets to those who are under DOTS, distribution of PDS for the households do not have BPL Ration card, pensioners who have not received pension, people who do not get refilling of gas cylinder, and problem of dialysis patient who did not receive dialysis.
Chandrika- living with HIV and member of Milana
“CFAR supported us to document the issues of people living with HIV. This related to collecting ART medicine and bringing to the notice of policy makers and issue circular to distribute medicine at the door steps. In the beginning, PLHIVs faced a lot of problems in going to the ART centre because of non availability transport facilities. Through Bangalore HIV/AIDS Forum, we created a WhatsApp group and disseminated information to People living with HIV across the State. With the support of CFAR, we have distributed 125 dry ration kits to PLHIV families in Bangalore.”
Evidence building, mapping of poor and vulnerable communities and linking them up for immediate relief
CFAR has coordinated with community organizations working on COVID-19 response on issues related to food relief, and health services among others. These includes, SAFA XLRI Alumni Initiative, Munnade, Association for Promoting Social Action, Milana, Bembala, Arogya Seva, Vijaya Mahila Sangha, Jyothi Mahila sangha, Swathi Mahila Sangha, Arunodaya Network of Positive People, Bangalore HIV/AIDS Forum, Garment Workers Union, Karnataka Rakshak and other workers unions.
Through SAFA XLRI Alumni Initiative, CFAR has reached out to 7130 households and 35650 individual beneficiaries from the marginal and vulnerable communities of construction workers, migrant garment workers, street venders, sex workers, HIV positives, transgender person and distributed dry ration among them.
Veena, transgender woman, Gopalpura
Veena is used to spending long hours on the road, meeting people and solving their problems. However, ever since the lockdown was announced, she has been doubly busy. She has been going from door-to-door, distributing free ration and sometimes cooked meals to over 500 households in Gopalpura which is located near Gandhinagar in Bengaluru. Since a large number of families in the area are daily wage labourers like domestic workers, construction workers, and even street venders, the lockdown meant no income for all of them, which had a direct impact on their food consumption.
“I get a lot of support from various organizations such as Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), Swaraj Abhiyan, Diya Ghar and I, along with my volunteers, go to slums and map the households and based on the mapping they send us the dry ration kits and we distribute to poor and unreached slums in Bangalore.”
“I try my best to ensure that their basic needs are met particularly related to food. I have mapped around 150 transgender and distributed kits to them in Mysore Road, Chaluvadipalya, Sukkadkatte. We are a vulnerable community, and it is in times like this when the support that we need is much more and I am glad that I can help hundreds of families.”
Nethravathi, Outreach worker, Single Window
“I live in Nayandahalli slum where hundreds of migrant construction workers live in small huts without any basic facilities. These families have been living in the locality for more than 25 years and the entire slum is depending upon the daily wages, and they go to different parts of Bangalore for the work.”
During the lockdown, Nethravathi helped more than 400 households in the locality through different donors. She has mapped 140 households without BPL Ration card and linked to Department of Food and Civil Supplies for dry ration. “I enumerated 140 houses for Rs.1000 financial assistance through Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board and the Labour Department and identified 38 new construction workers and got them registered with the Board.”
Mahadevamma, construction workers, Vinayaka slum
My name is Mahadevamma living in Vinayaka slum and working as a construction worker and my husband is also construction workers and my children are studying in PUC and secondary school. “Because of the lockdown, I and my husband were unable to feed our two children until CFAR team distributed dry ration including rice, oil, salt, and dal that helped us to sail through 10-12 days. The team also helped us to get ration on time and the Help-desk member Nethra visited us daily. She also helped us to get cooked food being distributed by police officers.”
Dry ration for sex workers living with HIV
With the support of Swathi Mahila Sangha, CFAR mapped 300 sex workers living with HIV in their intervention settlements and distributed dry ration to them through SAFA XLRI Alumni Initiative.
Facilitate pregnant and lactating mothers for Take Home Ration (THR)
CFAR submitted community recommendations to provide Take Home Ration instead of Midday meal for the pregnant and lactating mothers on 26 March, 2020. Subsequently, the Department of Women and Child Development has started distributing Take Home Ration to pregnant and lactating mothers.
Single Window with the help of Help-desk, SHG members enumerated and identified 3650 pregnant and lactating mothers in 5 Wards and facilitates ICDS to distribute Take Home Ration.
Of the 36 settlements, Help-desk members in 7 settlement supported Anganwadi Helpers to distribute Take Home Ration where Anganwadi workers could not travel because of the lockdown.
Dhanlashmi, Help-desk: “In my locality, there are 51 pregnant and lactating women who go to Anganwdi centres and eat cooked food in the afternoon. Due to COVID-19, pregnant and lactating women could not go and eat at the centre. The Anganwadi worker called me and asked me to help Anganwadi helper to distribute food grains. I took the support of two more volunteers and distributed Take Home Ration to all 51 women enrolled under Mathrapoorna Midday meal Yojana.”
Mapping of construction workers at the construction sites
With the help of different builders and contractors such as Hombale builders, we enumerated 331 construction workers at the construction sites in different locations and linked these for Midday meal packets distributed by the Labour Department and Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). Everyday 331 meal packets are being distributed at Police Quarters on Mysore Road, Ananda Jyothi Nagar, Vidhyagiri layout, Chandra layout, Devegowda slum, Arundatti Nagar, and Subhash Nagar.
Vijaya Shankar, Manager, Hombale Constructions says: “In the beginning, we found it very difficult to contact the Department for Food Relief but through CFAR, we got the toll free number –155214 and contacted the Labour Inspector. We sought 96 food packets for the construction workers. From 2 April, 2020 we are getting 96 packets every day. Even though it is not sufficient for the workers but we could able to manage with some relief.’’
Coordination with ICDS team for distribution of Take Home Ration where there is no ICDS centre
With the help of Help-desk members in VST Colony, we enumerated 122 children between the age of 6 months to 6 years and submitted the list for making arrangements for the Take Home Ration being distributed by Department of Women and Child Development where there is no ICDS centre. Lakshmamma, Ganesh, Rani, Manjula enumerated 122 children and with the support of Anganwadi worker in Magadi Road distributed green grams, jiggery, rice, nutrimix, milk powder, and sugar.
Usha is one of the 144 Help-desk members working with CFAR-Single Window and is responsible for 187 households in her locality in Ambedkar Nagar.
“I get update everyday from CFAR about health precautions to be taken and announcements from the government for poor on COVID-19 relief. I have supported 156 beneficiaries including pregnant women, and children in accessing Take Home Ration through ICDS at Ambedkar Nagar, Subhash Nagar ward.”
Single Window team connected Manjunath with Labour Department officials and she sends daily request for 500 packet foods through helpline number-155214. He then goes to the hub and collects food packets which are then distributed in 5 different construction workers site in Nagarabhavi -128 Ward. Manjunath, is also Ward Committee/ Help-desk member.
Mr Mukund, Senior Labour Officer says CFAR is working closely with the Labour Department to connect labourers, especially migrants, and construction workers across Bangalore. “I am coordinating and sharing the details with CFAR team and they raise the requirement for different parts of Bangalore and help them in getting food packet everyday.’’
Another officer of the Department, Ansar says the Department had approached CFAR and mapped 850 families in the slums in Tippunanagr, Yelahanka Taluk for food.
Jyothi, president of Jyothi Mahila Sangha said CFAR coordinated with her to map sex workers in different parts of Bangalore and through her Sangha and Help-desk members from CFAR distributed 1200 kits to sex workers in Bangalore.
Mr Anurag Behar, CEO, Azim Premji Foundation and Mr Anand Swaminathan, CEO, Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives visited Ambedkar Nagar in Subhash Nagar on 24 April, 2020 and interacted with the slum dwellers and even heard their problems.
The Help-desk members, Single Window team explained to the visitors the work they are doing, particularly food relief, health services for pregnant and children etc with the support of CFAR.
Shehanaz Begum, Outreach Worker, is a resident of Dhanibandh settlement in Sambalpur and also an outreach worker with CFAR. She covers 14 out of the 88 settlements in Sambalpur to interact with the community and provide them the necessary support in the form of information.
A trained tailor, she is putting her skill to use today. She, along with the support of the MSC member Ms. Rehana Begum, raised money locally to purchase the necessary materials and are making cloth masks and distributing to the residents free of cost.
Shehanaz Begum is distributing 50 masks on daily basis in Rashtrapati Colony Gobintola, Sakhipada and Dhanupalli and while distributing them she also disseminates information on how to use the mask and why it is important to use the mask.
In addition to this, she supports in distributing puffed rice, biscuits and jaggery for 75 elderly and children living in Rashtrapati Colony through her own effort. She is one of our many champions from Sambalpur who is making the efforts to fight COVID-19 more meaningful.
The Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) field team has been reaching out to the settlements and providing awareness about both Government schemes as well information to stay protected from COVID-19.
The team provides customised information on whom to approach to avail all the Government benefits including ration, financial assistance and where to get their concerns addressed. The team has been closely working with the Deputy Commissioner of Sambalpur as well as the Ward Officers, Swachh Saathis, Anganwadi and Self Help Group representatives.
The team provides specific information on the timings for collecting ration and also support in ensuring social distancing among people who come to collect ration.
They also alert the women about the financial assistance that is being provided for the women having Jan Dhan account and the financial assistance for unorganised workers and the procedures to avail it.
As on April 19, the teams had reached out to 730 people in 102 settlements either face to face or over phone.
A WhatsApp group with active members across the settlements has been initiated and this group is used to provide information on COVID-19, understand the status of cooked food delivery in their settlements.
Any issue related to ration or non-availability of cooked food can also be conveyed in this group. Those who cannot type or send message use photographs and audio messages to inform the field team.
Rakesh Kumar Makkar has been staying in Ward no 18 in Baliapata, since 2002. He got to know that there are many labourers staying in this Ward, who were facing lot of problems.
“I decided to help them by taking their issues to the Government and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and many people from the community helped me in taking this forward.”
“In 2018, an organisation, named CFAR reached, out to us in Baliapata. CFAR, through community meetings, has enlightened us on issues related to water and environment. We formed Community Management Committee with the objective of understanding the problems of the community and addressing them, through the Committee members. All the concerns and problems of the community are taken to the Single Window Forum Members to the Single Window and then linked with the Departments concerned. After becoming Single Window Forum Member, we have not only taken up the issues of our community, but are also involved in other social development activities, such as helping people during the difficult times such as cyclone, Fani.”
“There has been problem with the quality of water in our community and this is not specific only in our settlement but also in many other settlements. We have learnt water quality testing methods and are able to test the quality of water ourselves. After discussing the issue with Primal and taking help of CFAR, we were successful in getting a Water ATM installed in our settlement.”
“Now with the Coronavirus outbreak, we Single Window Forum Members- along with CFAR -are trying to reach out to people by creating awareness and helping them by providing dry ration, cooked food and sanitary kit. We are giving information concerning COVID-19. We are positive that we will fight this battle together with CFAR and will overcome this crisis.”
Helping People is What Makes Me Happy
Living in Barabhuja Basti for last 20 years Arati Jena has been helping her community in different ways. Popularly known as Kuni didi, she derives pleasure in helping her community. Following her passion of social work, she decided to take it forward in a structured way by forming a self-help group in 2014. This 15-member SHG has its own identity and even a bank account. Together, she has helped in setting up 13 SHGs in the nearby settlements of Jagamara Bhoi Sahi, Dumduma Bhoi Sahi, Dumduma Pana Sahi and Barabhuja.
Arati’s ambition took her to a bigger platform of Mahilla Arogya Samiti Area Level Federation and eventually in 2016 she formed Maa Barabhuja Mahilla Mahasangha.
Being the president of the MAS has enhanced her gamut of contribution to varied activities such as waste collection work in her ward every Sunday, managing for toilet subsidy for 35 households and helping 50 people in getting Aadhar card, 48 individuals obtaining ration card and assisting 130 people in opening bank account.
As a Swacchagrahi, Arati Jena has connected 10 households with municipal water supply. She has also been helping the elderly people in distress; her old age home started with 3 members and has now grown with 12 members.
Arati Jena has proven herself in helping the community during disaster and distress time, be it during the cyclone Fani or outbreak of pandemic. She, along with her other members, have provided dry and cooked food to the needy in the community in her ward, cleaned the slum, and even cleared the pathway by cutting the trees.
Journey with CFAR
Arati Jena’s association with CFAR started a year back but she has already been an integral part of all the initiatives taken in her Ward. Understanding the importance of menstrual hygiene management, she has been creating awareness on proper hygiene to adolescent girls and has helped in creating a Pad Bank in Jagamara Bhoi Sahi, for the poor and needy girls /woman, by procuring sanitary pads from BMC and also raising it from the community, voluntarily. Her dedication and continuous effort in helping people has set an example for the community.
COVID- 19 Emergency Response
Since the outbreak of Covid 19, Arati Jena has been creating awareness in four nearby settlements in her ward and also helping the most needy and vulnerable by supporting with dry food and cooked food. Till date, she has supported 150 persons every day for last 8 days and has provided dry ration to 65 households in her own capacity. She has been providing information on schemes and benefit to all the beneficiaries in her community.
Her support has also been seen in counseling the elderly people and addressing their fear for the pandemic. She has been creating a path for many others to follow and has proven herself to be a leader amidst all circumstances.
As rightly said by Mahatma Gandhi: “Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking”, SWF Members and MAS Members of “Maa Jageswari” have been playing an active role, with its 13 members in creating awareness, helping the Govt officials in distribution of dry ration, assisting the ASHA workers in door to door health check-ups and helping elderly people in getting the necessary requirement for them. The group formed in 2015, has been working for the community, be that in cleanliness drive, on creating health awareness, providing information on immunisation schedule for children or helping Govt in reaching out to the beneficiaries.. In this difficult time the community members are creating awareness on hand washing, maintaining social distance yet supporting each other in spite of the physical distance. They are alerting the authorities, if they observe COVID-19 symptoms in any person. They have been helping the elderly in getting their dry ration and pension by facilitating conveyance and escorting them to the venue. Their spirit and unity is setting an example for others to follow.
A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed
SWFMs and CMC Members extend their solidarity for health professionals
Single Window Forum members and Community Management Committee members have been a pillar of strength for the health professionals residing in Nirankari Nagar. In the time of growing fear of the pandemic, the SWFMs have been expressing solidarity with the health professionals and also offering them help including occasionally serving them homemade food or simply by being a friend to them. The nurse treating the person tested COVID-19 positive have been staying in Nirankari Nagar. She has tested negative, but her fear was empathised by the SWFMs. Being a medical staff, there is always more possibility of getting in contact with the deadly virus and knowing this threat the health workers put their lives into risk and work for others. ”There is more respect for the profession and for her now,” says Laxmipriya Lenka SWFM. Social distance is maintained but it has also been explained to the community that, the risk will get over after the quarantine period. The electrician working in the same clinic was taken to hospital by Bidulata Das CMC member, Prasant Swain another community leader for health check-up. We have more respect for the people associated with hospitals and we will give them all support and help they need, shared by both Bidulata Das and Prasant Swain.
Community designed posters on awareness on COVID-19. As many as 17 posters were made- mostly by children—
which were displayed in the common pathways for better visibility. These could catch attention of the community to act as a reminder to take preventive measures.
Single Window Forum members are connected through Whatsapp platform, segregated based on different zones under the Municipal Corporation. All the updates of the community and grievances are addressed through the common forum. The grievance vary from getting essential WaSH services to addressing the fear of COVID-19.
COVID has resulted in a huge economic impact across the globe. Lockdown to prevent the spread of infection has brought economy to a standstill, hitting the poor very badly. Hunger and poverty are a bigger threat than COVID-19 itself.
Challenges faced by the vulnerable population:
Sex workers, transgender and people living with HIV are facing a huge backlash from this pandemic. Since their livelihood is at stake right now, for them survival has also become a challenge with each passing day.
Transgender, who either beg or involve in sex work, are forced to stay indoors. Similarly, many sex workers who were involved in this trade to fend for their families, are also unable to take this impact as not all of them were prepared for this kind of a situation. Things are particularly difficult for sex workers and transgender who are HIV positive, live in extreme poverty and are suffering with no support. The ration provided in the ration shop is of a very poor quality and those living with HIV need to have proper food along with the ART medicines in order to improve their life span.
Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) has been working in Tamil Nadu since 2006 across multiple cities on different projects particularly media advocacy for vulnerable population, social inclusion of sex workers and transgender.
Between 2012 and 2016, CFAR also ran a single window near Rajaji hospital to help people access various Government schemes in Madurai.
CFAR identified over 200 highly vulnerable sex workers, transgender community in Madurai belonging to Betaniyapuram, Arapalayam, and Manjamedu Colony. We had approached Father J.M.Das from Kodaikanal who referred us to Fr.Michaelraj MSJE Trust, Madurai for support.
Since the Trust was already into relief work and they had already provided relief to many people, they came forward to support CFAR and provided a financial support of Rs.25,000/-
In order to ensure that most of them are benefited, CFAR decided to distribute ration for 52 families from Arapalayam, Betaniyapuram and Manjamedu @ Rs. 475 per relief kit.
Our former colleague, Ms. Rani who is also currently the President of Sri Lakshmi Pengal Munnetra Sangam, a Community Based Organisation of sex workers, helped in identifying the 52 most vulnerable sex workers, People living with HIV and transgender from Madurai.
She identified and negotiated with Sri Kannan Departmental Store, Pvt, Ltd located near Fatima College, Madurai and shared the bank details with MJSE Trust.
Once the money got transferred to the account, the shop took the responsibility of delivering the packs to Rani’s house.