Over the last 3 months, India has been under a strict national lockdown. Our partners listened to the needs of the girls under these circumstances and pivoted to adapt accordingly.
COVID-19 Field Update
June 19, 2020
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, Shadhika raised over $20,000 for our COVID-19 fund to give our partner sites the flexibility to address emerging needs on the ground. Over the last 3 months, India has been under a strict national lockdown, leaving businesses and schools closed and leading to devastating unemployment rates. Our partners listened to the needs of the girls under these circumstances and pivoted their programming to adapt accordingly.
In the initial weeks, Vacha, Sahiyar, and Jabala refocused their efforts and resources to meet immediate needs for material support, including weekly deliveries of food and basic health items such as masks, anti-bacterial gels, and female hygiene products. While the government is distributing rations, those can barely sustain the average Indian household. Overcrowding conditions like multi-generational, single-room homes and limited access to public bathrooms were obstacles to practicing effective preventative measures, such as social distancing and frequent handwashing. In response, over the last 70 days, Vacha and its 1,500 program participants have worked tirelessly to ensure 820 families in Mumbai have proper nutrition and basic sanitary products. By closely monitoring the situation on the ground, our partners were able to provide a lifeline while their program participants’ families were adjusting to their new lives.
Simultaneously, the majority of our partners – including Baale Mane and others – moved their programming from the communities to virtual platforms. They were able to deliver skills training through online self-guided sessions and group activities. For instance, Milaan completed the virtual training of 4 peer mentors who will lead the upcoming cohort of girls in their programs. Additionally, wherever possible, Milaan and others leveraged existing relationships with local community leaders and organizations to conduct in-person sessions according to health and safety guidelines. Finally, recognizing the unique vulnerability of girls in confinement and the increased need for emotional support, many sites intensified telephonic welfare checks to break the isolation many of the girls experienced. Some partners are also connecting the girls with community-based agencies to obtain mental health resources locally.
Unfortunately, limited access to mobile and virtual technology, as well as the costs associated with it, is a barrier preventing some girls from participating fully in these virtual programs. While we collectively commend our partners’ responsiveness and the girls’ resilience, there are new obstacles on the horizon as India relaxes its lockdown despite evidence of new outbreaks.
Many families facing economic hardship have started to migrate back to their rural communities of origin, effectively cutting ties between the partner sites and their program participants and jeopardizing the girls’ chances to complete their education. If and when schools and colleges reopen, many classes will only resume online and some may require increased personal protective equipment for in-person instruction. The fees associated with schooling will only go up, becoming an even bigger hurdle for parents who were already scraping by. All of these factors have the potential to erode the parental commitment the girls need to stave off early marriage and to pursue their educational goals.
Much like the rest of the world, the COVID-19 crisis in India remains volatile, threatening to lead the country towards another more severe lockdown. In order to be nimble and create effective mitigation tactics, Shadhika continues efforts to raise money for our COVID-19 fund. Our donors and supporters are a central cog in our partners’ ability to respond effectively to this rapidly changing pandemic and to curb its impact on the future of these young women.Read more