To discuss the ways to tackle the spread of the second wave of pandemic in rural areas, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) and Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi organized a Panel Discussion on “Rural Realities: Gujarat Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian villages“ on May 14, 2021.
The panelists for the session included Mr. Umashankar Yadav, Founder-Director at Ahmedabad International Literature Festival; Ms. Hiral Dave, Program Head at Cohesion Foundation Trust; Ms. Poonam Kathuria, Director, Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiative – SWATI; Mr. Rafi Malek, Director at Centre for Development in Ahmedabad; Dr. Deepak Acharya, Consultant at Development Support Agency, Gujarat and State Medicinal Plant Board and; Ms. Shushila Prajapati, Program Manager, ActionAid Association.
The discussion was introduced by the moderator of the panel Dr. Mansee Bal Bhargava, an entrepreneur, researcher, and educator from the Eco-Development and Research cell in Ahmedabad.
Care giver Burden: Gender Based
Dr. Poonam Kathuria talked about how things have gotten completely out of control and out of hand during the second wave. During the first wave of the pandemic, gender-based violence and domestic abuse as a result of the lockdown, had come to the forefront.
Dr. Kathuria brought up key important points on how women getting Covid is dealt with, or if someone who is suffering from malnutrition and contracts the virus, how is their treatment addressed. Her organization, Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiative – SWATI, is doing a study on this of which she shared a few findings. She spoke about how the existing policies are either gender blind or gender-neutral, which do not address the basic differences between men and women.
During the study, Dr. Kathuria’s team spoke to a woman who told them that while her husband had Covid, she took care of him but when she contracted the virus, her father-in-law telephoned her father and asked him what to do with her. Eventually, the husband and wife moved out of the house for that time, wherein the wife had to take care of everything and run the house, without any support.
Another story they were told about focused on the stigma attached. If a woman, while taking care of the people in the house, gets Covid, then it is not a problem. However, if the woman is the one to bring the virus into the house, she faces the wrath and anger of her family members. The findings, thus, so far, show that Covid or no Covid, the women continue to be the caregivers in the family.
Dr. Kathuria also pointed out that the Covid Centres in rural areas are considered as “shelter homes” for people, mostly, women, who have got Covid and have no means on their own to get treated. Had it been compulsory for all, the centers would not have been stigmatized. It is important to bring in relief, cash transfer, and tiffin service to help provide some relief to the Covid infected families and particularly, women.