Self Help Groups: Women challenging COVID-19

While women’s vulnerability to disaster is underscored, strong self-help groups in Puri, Odisha are setting an example. Puri being severely affected by the super cyclone has left the entire city devastated. Women left with just one piece of cloth to cover body and drowning into the pond to save lives speak volumes about the power they had shown during the anonymity. Women trying to bounce back to normalcy as soon as possible from Fani where COVID-19 strikes back again. But with the power to rebound again the SHGs are accepting all the challenges of COVID-19 and also keeping others motivated.

  1. Satyavathi aged 48 is working since 10 years as a SHG member and has strong belief in overcoming every disaster. “Taking up the responsibility of creating awareness on COVID-19 at the community level is of utmost importance” Satyavathi mentions. Satyavathi and many other SHG members has step forward and created a resilience fund aftermath Fani with support from SEEDS and local organisation Spandan. The fund is collected to bridge the gap between disaster and the time taken for the relief to come, taking care of small expenses and activities immediately after any disaster. This fund is now utilised in overcoming the pandemic situation of COVID-19 as a severe need of the community. She further mentions, We are using our Resilience Fund to help with the basic necessities of the community. We are able to buy hand sanitizers, cleaning the water passages from getting infected, providing food and other needs for our children and others with this fund. ”, she says.

While disaster management strategies as well as preparedness do not adequately factor in gendered responses, strong self-help groups and collectives are showing the way. Their high level of risk awareness, social networking practices, extensive knowledge of their communities, managing natural environmental resources and caring abilities makes them important players of effective risk assessment, early warning, disaster response and recovery action. More than anything else, the contribution of the SHG groups are driving others to voluntarily contribute for the resilience fund is saving lives of many in this uncertainty.