The Covid-19 pandemic has put great strain on people all around the world and many of us have required extra help. With this in mind, numerous women belonging to Self-Help-Groups in India took it upon themselves to lend a helping hand to ease the situation in their country during the pandemic. A Self-Help-Group or SHG is an informal association of women who come together to improve their living conditions in various aspects such as health, finance, and so on. SHGs have helped in reducing poverty levels by providing employment opportunities to many women throughout the country. With over 67 million Indian women running over 6 million SHGs, they have been able to contribute significantly to the upkeep of Indian society during the Coronavirus pandemic.

They have invested their time and effort into manufacturing masks and other personal protective equipment, providing food to the needy, and even providing solutions to financial issues that have been on the rise during the pandemic. These groups have been at the forefront of fighting misinformation about the disease and the vaccine. 

By utilizing simple means of communication such as WhatsApp and other similar social media platforms, these women have been able to spread awareness about the importance of personal hygiene, wearing masks, social distancing, and quarantining. The speed of information spread that this mode of communication offers has proven itself to be particularly helpful during a crisis. Information spread by SHGs tends to be trusted and reliable. 

Many Women-led SHGs have been facilitated by government programs such as NITI Aayog, enabling them to distribute their hand-made masks to a larger population. This has played a vital role in overcoming the acute mask shortage that the country faced. These programs not only helped in the distribution of face masks but also hand sanitizers, soaps, protective clothing, and so on. Non- profit organizations such as PRADAN (Professional Assistance for Development Action) have reached out to these women, offering to train them and equip them with the necessary skills in the midst of the pandemic.

Women in SHGs have been tirelessly working in community kitchens to provide food for those who are most vulnerable safely and cleanly. For example, in Kerala, members of the Kudumbashree Network set up 1300 community kitchens providing food for those who were affected and for those in quarantine. This has eased the burden on society while it goes through the pandemic. They have greatly helped in ensuring that food supplies are delivered on time to those who do not have easy access to these resources. This includes ready-to-eat meals being delivered to door-steps and they have played a pivotal role in ensuring that women and children are well-nourished. To do this, many women even began growing fruits and vegetables in their back yards! Moreover, they have been a great support to pregnant and lactating mothers suffering from malnutrition by procuring and distributing essential medicines and vitamin supplements. 

The Coronavirus pandemic had gravely affected the country’s financial situation both at a micro and macro level. Women in SHGs have played a large role in alleviating financial stress. When people were unable to physically go to banks to start an account or withdraw money, these women took it upon themselves to go from door to door assisting with these matters. They provided banking services including pension distribution. This has allowed households to maintain their financial security during the pandemic. 

In conclusion, Indian women have played a pivotal role in the upkeep of their society during the Coronavirus pandemic. They have been strong pillars that the nation could rest on. Their work has always and will continue to be applauded by society. 

Purva Sreekaanth

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