Home / News / India /  6.8 crore women in self-help groups join fight against covid-19

BENGALURU : In Jasala, western Uttar Pradesh, Murti Devi has been making 60 face masks a day for the past month after finishing her household chores and working in the fields. Devi is one of about 200 women from self-help groups (SHGs) in the village stitching face masks.

About 1,800km away in a village in Odisha’s Puri district, Minakshi Prusty and 50 women from an SHG are busy making 5,000 bottles of herbal hand sanitizer a day.

Across the country, from Bihar and Jharkhand to Kerala and Karnataka, close to 6.8 crore women have joined the fight against covid-19. They’re making face masks, running community kitchens, delivering essential supplies, sensitizing people about health and hygiene, and countering misinformation.

They’re part of the six million SHGs that fall under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), a self-employment programme for the rural poor run with the support of the World Bank.

SHG members have sewn 54 million masks and produced 2.8 trillion litres of sanitizer in 13 states. More than 10,000 community kitchens have been set up by SHGs across the country to feed stranded workers and other vulnerable people.

“SHGs started by making masks but are now engaged in a range of interventions. District administrations are involving SHG women because of their ability to respond so well in times of need. In the past, too, they played a big role in the Swachh Bharat Mission," said Nita Kejriwal, joint secretary, ministry of rural development.

The women spent a few days learning how to make masks, gowns and gloves. “They are also engaged in door-to-door surveys with anganwadi workers on nutrition and hygiene, besides managing community kitchens," said B.R. Mamatha, director of Karnataka’s state rural livelihoods mission.

Prusty, who leads the SHG in Puri district, said they use neem, tulsi, camphor and alum to prepare the sanitizer. “We’ve supplied about 60,000 bottles of sanitizer to hospitals, banks, and police stations," she said.

Kudumbashree, one of the world’s largest networks of women with 4.3 million members across 300,000 SHGs in Kerala, was the earliest to start mass production of masks. It has started 1,300 community kitchens in panchayats and municipalities.

About 190,000 WhatsApp groups with 2.2 million members have been formed to spread awareness about the dos and don’ts during the lockdown. They also run tele-counselling helplines, comforting women and children stuck at home in difficult situations, and also deliver food and medicine to the elderly.

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