The Covid-19 pandemic has forced women who have lost a sole earning member to enter the job market, at the worst possible time.
When Yuvdhir Mor saw people his own age succumbing to the virus; colleagues, school,and college mates, the seriousness of the situation hit him hard. Unable to help people medically, he decided to use his technological expertise to help women who might have lost an earning member take rein of their lives.
Today, his website ‘Covid Widows’ is receiving about 500-600 messages of help from women who want to restart their lives.
“Covid does not differentiate between anyone, it has affected almost everyone. We are trying to help women who have a certain level of education and skill to enter or re-enter the workforce,” said Mor.
Ever since its launch on May 11, Mor and his team of volunteers have managed to get profiles of 50 such women to a closure with various multinational companies and banks.
For the women with no education background, Mor is trying to get them in touch with grass-root level non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Saumya Maheshwari took to Twitter recently to ask for help for her aunt who lost her husband, the sole bread earner of the family. The family had resorted to raising funds online to help the family financially.
“Our organization has been getting a lot of calls from women who have lost an earning member of their family to Covid,” said Amrita Gupta, the Director of Research Advocacy and Communication at Azad Foundation.
“For us to give financial support to these women, is a bit difficult. For the short-term we are helping them with food or rations. For the long term, we are encouraging them to get training and get access to some livelihood,” she added.
Padmini Kumar, Assistant Director at the Joint Women’s Program, however, asked “where are the jobs for the women who are less trained?”
“Mostly these women are employed in low-end jobs, like construction labourers or domestic workers. Today, there is no construction work going on and even not all domestic workers are being called to work,” she said.
Sunalini Kumar, Associate Professor at the Ambedkar University, Delhi explained that women have always been at a disadvantage in the job market and the Covid-19 pandemic has made things worse.
“These women are entering the job market at a disadvantaged time and Covid widows are especially disadvantaged as they would not have prepared for this scenario. They had been socialized into thinking that they would be able to depend upon their husbands for income. Their education and job skills are lower. A woman who is joining the job market in their middle age has to fight not only these external circumstances but also her own conditioning and fears,” she explained.
The Delhi government had recently announced financial compensation of Rs. 50,000 for families who might have lost a family member to the virus.
Although Sunalini agrees that the money is too little and cannot be a long term solution, she still thinks that this is a step in the right direction.
“It is a symbolic gesture to remind other governments- state and centre-what they should be doing. It reaffirms people’s belief that it is a two-way relationship with the government and they have a right to accept compensation from their government,” she said.