We are a nation which prides itself on its Nari Shakti or the Inherent Strength of Women. We have been witness to this inherent strength time and again, especially in times of difficulties. And the most recent trauma of the Chinese Virus COVID-19 has once again brought out the organizational and participatory skills of the women in more ways than one. Be it women health workers or entrepreneurs or self-help groups, they have stood strong and extracted the best time management skills that they have to help Bharat chart the course of combating COVID in the best possible manner.
When the damage this virus could cause became a cause for concern, one of the most serious concerns was the lack of testing kits. A home grown test kit was the need of the hour and a lady made it possible to have it in just six weeks – a full term pregnant lady, no less. Just one day before delivering her daughter on the 19th of March, 2020, she submitted the test kit to the National Institute of Virology – Patho Detect. The scientist was Mylab's research and development chief, Minal Dakhave Bhosale. While imported kits cost about Rs.4,500 apiece, this kit cost only about Rs.1,200 per kit. It was not just the race against time which was conquered, quality and price too were won over. Just another typical example of Bharatiya Nari Shakti.
Another important item that was imported was the PPE kits. When the Corona Virus took over the country, one major concern was for the health workers who were examining affected people day in and day out. Without PPE kits, they were at the highest risk of catching COVID-19. Protecting them was more important because we already had a shortage of skilled health workers. Again, women in various self-help groups rose to the occasion and worked round the clock to provide for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). From an importer of PPE kits, India now produces about 2 lakh PPEs every day. And yes, do take pride in the fact that none of them have been rejected. The change from importer to large scale producer and soon, exporter, was made easy, just like that!
Minal Dakhave Bhosale designed India’s first Corona test
kit when she was about to deliver her baby
Masks which are the first defence against COVID-19 were also in acute shortage as soon as the pandemic started spreading. But once again, our women rose to the occasion and started stitching cloth masks from their homes, small factories, in self-help groups (SHG) in the villages in such large numbers that it seemed as if a shortage of masks never existed. In Uttar Pradesh (UP), with the help of Khadi Gramudyog, SHG members are producing masks worth six lakh metres of khadi fabric. As of April 2020, as per World Bank, more than 19 million masks had been produced by 20,000 SHGs in over 27 States.
Whoever thought that women are shy of using technology hasn’t met the Bharatiya Stree. Women are the backbone of the Government's ‘Break the Chain’ campaign and they are raising awareness about hand hygiene, social distancing, quarantine and self-isolation through mobile phones, videos, songs, posters, rangolis and weekly meetings. This is happening in every State. Not just that, they are running dedicated helplines to respond to queries and help returning migrant workers and the elderly. Bank-sakhis are providing doorstep banking services to far-flung communities, distributing pensions and enabling the neediest to access credits into their accounts through direct benefit transfers (DBT).
One of the various salutations used to address women is ANNAPURNA, or the person who feeds the hungry. There have been many whose earnings have been affected because there are no jobs because industries and places of work are shut. Lakhs of people have generously distributed ration to such families, but there are lakhs of people who work in the cities, leaving their families behind in the villages. Such people usually eat at cheap hotels, dhabhas or kitchens. Because of the COVID-19 such kitchens are shut and such people had no access to cooked food suddenly. At such times, city women too started preparing meal packets for such staff like the gardeners, security people, drivers, etc. and for other roadside dwellers too and yes, distributed them freely too.
Women are at the forefront in preparing food for the needy, are the backbone of the campaign to create awareness about hand hygiene, social distancing, quarantine and self-isolation
Women and men are like the two wings of the bird and to fly, both must function. If our Nation has to conquer great heights of success and prosperity once more, it goes without saying that all of us have to strive to work hard. “Let no one be left behind on the path to success” seems to be the Mantra that the women of Bharat believe in – they will not be left behind and they will gladly give a helping hand to the one who is not able to catch up. Together we can and we shall Make India Great once more.