Impact of virus on women, girls requires special attention, civil society intervention needed

women, child

Responding to differential and special needs of women and girls in emergency and long-term support to combat COVID-19 pandemic:  Letter from civil society organizations to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, with copies to senior state officials:

We are writing to you on behalf of a network of civil society organizations, researchers, informal sector workers, collectives and individuals working with rural and tribal communities, marginalized women, women farmers, saltpan workers, in Gujarat.

In view of the current situation created by COVID-19, we would like to draw your attention of the pandemic on women and girls requiring special attention and specific interventions targeted to their specific needs. Acknowledging the vulnerability and differential needs of women will ensure that we look at the current situation in a well-rounded manner.

We request the government to put in place measures and support systems so that the suffering and the disproportionate risks faced by women are minimized.

To ensure a coordinated community response, we suggest constituting a Civil Society Coordination Committee that will assist government in the implementation of measures suggested below. The committee should draw plans for reaching out to the most marginalized women and groups and also undertake any assessment on an urgent basis.

Following are our key demands:

  1. Ensure delivery of reproductive health services, contraceptives, menstrual health supplies and maternal health care. Ensure that all pregnant women with a suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19 infection continue to have access to the full range of quality health care.
    • Make provision of 90 days of wages to all pregnant from 3rd trimester and lactating women with infants aged less than 6 months.
  2. Services of women’s helpline, shelter homes and child help line need to be kept fully functional and be classified as essential services (Women are more prone to facing Domestic Violence during crisis and lockdown)
    • Facilitate women’s continued participation in paid work; ensure and monitor the minimum wage paid in harvesting operations. The following measures will help towards this. Increase the provision for number of days in MNREGA and ensure that it is implemented seriously in all rural areas.
    • Arrange for special cash transfers to single women or women headed households in which partners or breadwinners have not made it back home due to lock down.
    • Facilitate Self Help Groups, informal sector workers to make soap, sanitizers, masks etc. on a large scale.
    • Provide cooked meals to children as part of midday meal scheme etc.
  3. Since women carry the major responsibility of household chores and care of the elderly and disabled, we suggest the following:
    • Support panchayats and local groups for organizing regular water supply to every household in order to avoid women and girls congregating at the village water source for bathing, washing and fetching drinking water.
    • Ensure delivery of LPG gas cylinders to households in villages.
  4. Ensure food Supply under PDS to women /families who do not have ration cards. – Supervise the operations in PDS through local women leaders who should be given Identity cards to monitor fair distribution and to minimize duplication.
    • Ensure that ration supply and relief support are adequate and available to all.
  5. Ensure that exposure all ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers and FHWs at the village level are provided with proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), social security and timely remuneration.
  6. Ensure that special needs of women with disabilities, single women, elderly and infirm, are not overlooked. They and their caregivers are reached out with necessary support.
  7. Ensure that the most marginalized transgender community does not face exclusion and is provided ration under PDS schemes; housing to those who are homeless and other medical facilities.

We hope that the state government will proactively and financially support the measures proposed above and consider rural women’s special needs as utmost priority. We assure the government of our commitment and preparedness to assist in the implementation of measures suggested.

We look forward to your positive response.

Signatories:

  • Poonam Kathuria, Director Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiatives
  • Renu Khanna, Director, Sahaj
  • Nafisa Barot, Trustee, Utthan
  • Karen Pinerio Coordinator, Working Group for Women and Land Ownership
  • Shilpa Vasavda, Development Professional
  • Sheba George, Director, SAHR WARU
  • Aruna Dholakiya, Executive Secretary, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan
  • Indira Hirway, Prof. Of Economics, Centre for Development Alternatives
  • Jharana Pathak,Asst. Prof., Gujarat Institute of Development Research & Secretary, AWAG
  • Rajiv Khandelwal, Aajeevika Bureau
  • Binoy Acharya, Director, Unnati
  • Hiral Dave, Cohesion Foundation
  • Sara Ahmed, Ahmedabad University
  • Leela Visaria, Prof. Emeritus, Gujarat Institute of Development research
  • Ashok Chatterjee, Former Executive Director National Institute of Design
  • Manish Acharya, Director, Setu, Abhiyan
  • Sejal Dand, Director, Anandi
  • Archana Joshi, CEO, Deepak Foundation

Copies sent to Gujarat chief secretary Anil Mukim; additional chief secretary, health and family welfare, Jayanthi Ravi; and additional chief secretary, department of women and child development, Sunaina Tomar


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