How the pandemic affected women? - A close look at the Old City, Ahmedabad
To find a hospital bed for her daughter, who went into labour amidst a raging pandemic, Miraben talked to us about her trials and challenges. Being refused entry into the private hospital, and then struggling to find someone to help them at the civil hospital, Miraben’s daughter had to wait for an entire day before she could deliver her baby.
In another household in the Old City, Dhartiben and her family found themselves struggling to make ends meet while also giving birth to her daughter, Kaira. While the delivery went smoothly, the financial situation that COVID-19 left them in made everything highly stressful.
These are just some of the stories we know of women who have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Increased cases of anaemia, malnutrition, domestic violence and torture hindered any semblance of respite women had in dealing with an already established, stifling patriarchy. We talked to Ms. Vibhuti, from Sahiyar Mahila Nagrik. She has been working on women’s issues during the pandemic.
“Along with physical violence, there have also been increased cases of social and mental torture.” she said. This also included instances of cyber bullying. Ms. Vibhuti also elaborated on how the social structure of households went awry, causing the women of the house to singlehandedly take up all responsibilities and demands of the men, children, and senior citizens of the family. This burden, coupled with the lack of mobility due to the lockdown also led to increased cases of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and deliveries.
Young girls were forced to compromise on their education due to family members losing their jobs. Ms. Vibhuti impressed upon the need to understand that woman empowerment is directly related to overall social development. “Only when we remove this darkness that is patriarchy can we rid ourselves of social and gender inequality.”
The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) stated that the lack of access to anganwadis also prevented women from availing nutritional and medical health benefits during and after their pregnancy. Coupled with this was the bigger problem of domestic violence. 32 percent women, and 45 percent men in India, consider domestic violence to be fair and just. In a society that runs on stringent social stratification, it becomes very difficult for women to break this cycle of violence.
While conversing with Niki Modi, councillor from Khadia ward, we heard stories of how it was much difficult for women who were Covid positive to secure a hospital bed for their delivery. Councillor Modi believed that women did not face any unique issues during the pandemic, but it was a challenge to avail healthcare facilities.
The question that ultimately arises is how can we make our councilors more accountable? Especially women councilors, who have the capacity to empathize with women’s issues and concerns in a more effective manner? How can we, as citizens, make our councilors more accountable, so that they represent diverse concerns in a better fashion? These are questions to mull over to create greater equity in our society.
Here is the link where you can listen to the entire podcast on this issue.
Written by: Nandini Jiva