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60 pc women workers in informal sector lost livelihood

In addition to income and employment loss, the report also highlights that lack of access to health resources - medicines, tests, hospital beds, doctors - was widely reported from Gujarat.

Written by Ritu Sharma | Ahmedabad |
December 17, 2021 2:03:31 am
The study titled 'Building Resilience and Strengthening our Solidarity' focusses on the effect of the second wave of the pandemic on 15 women's collective social enterprises in six states across five sectors -- agriculture, handicrafts, services, manufacturing and finance.( File/Representational)

More than 60 per cent of women workers in informal sector lost their livelihood and there was a 65 per cent reduction in their income during the Covid-19 pandemic, revealed a research study by Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Cooperative Federation along with SEWA Bharat.

The study titled ‘Building Resilience and Strengthening our Solidarity’ focusses on the effect of the second wave of the pandemic on 15 women’s collective social enterprises in six states across five sectors — agriculture, handicrafts, services, manufacturing and finance. Among 15, seven co-operatives from all five sectors were covered from Gujarat. Other states were Bihar, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected informal women workers, uprooting lives and livelihoods. For women in the informal sector, it has been a triple crisis: of health, livelihood and care. Due to a long lockdown, coupled with restrictions, these workers have lost their work and income – many have gone hungry, many more have gone into severe debt,” the report highlights.

Of these, services sector followed by agriculture were the most hit during the months of the second lockdown (April-June, 2021).

“60 women working under the women collective were reduced to 30 after the first wave. During the second wave, we somehow restarted our services with 30 women but it became very difficult as people would insist on both dose vaccination and would not let them, inside their houses. Since women were scared and hesitant to get vaccinated in the beginning so they got vaccinated late and thus could not get their both doses,” said Kusumben Vaghela (50) from Ahmedabad’s Vadaj area who is associated with SEWA homecare services where women take care of small children and senior citizens.

With a family of four, Kusumben who earned Rs 9,000 per month was out of work for four months while her husband into hosiery work too lost his job.

Kusumben’s is not the only case. Hitashiben Gamit, 31, of Lakhali village in Tapi district has one bigha land where she grows seasonal vegetables. Not only has she lost majority of her earnings during the second wave, but her crops were also damaged due to the unseasonal rains.

“The earning from one seasonal produce of ladyfinger from my farm dropped down from Rs 20,000-25,000 to Rs 5,000. We could not sell in markets as these were closed and were forced to sell to local traders,” says Hitashiben.

In addition to income and employment loss, the report also highlights that lack of access to health resources – medicines, tests, hospital beds, doctors – was widely reported from Gujarat. For instance, public facilities could not cope with demand, and local people also did not trust them due to a fear that the facilities lacked resources.

“They, therefore, had to go to private hospitals, spending Rs 500- 1,000 per day on tests and medicines with one member from Tapi district reported that hospital bills ranged from Rs 1-1.5 lakh for a week if a patient succeeded in getting a bed for treatment. Members of agricultural collective, for the most part, could not afford these prices and had to rely on home treatment,” it states.

In the village of Chichbardi, board member of Megha Co-operative, a collective of women in agriculture, Sangitaben reported that 15 people tested positive Covid-19 and a larger number showed symptoms but with negative test results.

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