The First Responders
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people and organisations stepped forward to help steer communities and societies through the crisis. Especially, women from the grassroots showed tremendous grit and led their communities through these challenging times. Yet, many of these stories remain unknown and under reported.
The First Responders, which is published by Reliance Foundation (RF) and Observer Research Foundation (ORF), is an effort to document the untold stories of women leaders in the pandemic who worked at the grassroots in India to provide vital support.
It spotlights 25 stories of women leadership sourced from across the RF and ORF ecosystems and NGO partner organisations, to increase geographical and sector/ theme spread. The publication showcases their relentless efforts towards ensuring the welfare of their communities through their own tumultuous journeys. Along with narrating these journeys, the publication also draws key political, developmental and policy lessons from these stories that could be applied to other contexts.
She coordinated with the block office to get pension cards issued to the elderly – she managed to help 350 of them.
She educated the community on proper health measures, including cleaning their hands, using masks and sanitisers, and following social distancing protocols. In Kasarwadi, Mahananda's nutrition gardens helped sustain families.
The Gram Panchayat also provided food to the Anganwadi teachers and staff, even when the centre was closed. They provided loans of Rs 5,000 each to the families in the village to meet household consumption needs during the lockdown.
She took the lead role in motivating women of her hamlet and community for vaccination
She helped 90 villagers to come back home during the pandemic. Distributed 300 masks to the poor and organised vaccination. Led skill training in mushroom cultivation and livestock rearing.
She led the malnutrition control programme during the peak of the pandemic
She countered vaccine hesitancy in community with door-to-door campaign.
Jagat Janani Biswas
She provided nearly Rs 28 lakh loan to the SHG members from her own corpus to keep up the livelihood activities. She further sensitised communities across her Block about vaccination.
She has helped ensure institutional deliveries (child birth) for at least 10 women during the pandemic
Women in her SHG significantly increased their incomes during pandemic and produced more than 3,00,000 masks.
She procured and distributed sanitary pads during and after lockdowns and created awareness around menstrual hygiene in the community.
she helped facilitate the distribution of masks, soaps and sanitisers in her ward, and went door-to-door to raise awareness about pandemic-appropriate behavior.
She built her own handmade organic cosmetics business to support her family.
Mutum Surmala Devi
She supported the coaching of players on her own during the pandemic and kept training them
She assisted her community members to access and install the Aarogya Setu application.
She addressed the sharp rise in Gender Based Violence (GBV) during lockdowns, lodged case with police. Additionally, she organised distribution of medical supplies, sanitary pads, ration kits and relief materials.
She helped promote vaccination in remote areas of India. Under her guidance, more people got vaccinated.
She enabled the inter-state flow of supplies by setting up food banks for truck drivers along National Highway 44, which runs through the district.
She linked her community with various government schemes during the lockdown. Mobilised SHG members and youth in building a water harvesting structure
She helped local women produce sanitisers and masks to be distributed throughout the village.
She was instrumental in establishing and maintaining linkages between farmers. She played a significant role in enlisting 50 women farmers as FPC shareholders. She was also able to establish a rural mart in her tehsil, which provided market access and helped promote entrepreneurship amongst SHGs
Sharada encouraged migrant workers to stay in quarantine, and was involved in spreading awareness across the community about Covid-19 and what measures they could take to protect themselves.
She volunteered and learnt the protocols on managing the bodies of Covid-19 patients, and trained other volunteers.
She convinced the administration to allow street vendors to operate in designated vending spaces during COVID-19 lockdown. She got them issued with ID cards that ensured vendors could continue earning their livelihoods during closures.
She supervised the distribution of hundreds of thousands of masks and oversaw the management of quarantine centres and shelters for the urban homeless