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Lockdown, Zoom and uncertainty.

by Faiza Shaikh.

As soon as the news of lockdown broke there was chaos everywhere, some were happy of not going to work from the next day and somewhere sad due to cancellation of the wedding everyone had different feelings but this started changing when the lockdown started extending then finishing.  The fear of illness was getting settled in everyone but now the concerns were more on money and expenses now.  We started receiving calls from many women and girls – ‘please help us with ration kits as we don’t have any food items at the moment nor do we have any money for medicines’.  The calls started increasing day by day of which we were having discussions one to one among the staff members but since the numbers were going up we decided to have a Zoom meeting among staff members. 

We managed to help around 500 families in Mumbra and Kurla.  We were providing ration kit which would suffice for a family of 5 members for almost a month for which we called our girls and women who were in need and were associated with Aawaaz-e-Niswaan.  

In our meetings, we tried to understand the situation in Kurla and Mumbra. What are the challenges faced by families? Are the political parties doing relief in these areas? The discussion went on all over the place and finally boiled down to that we need to provide relief to women and girls coming to the centre and largely to the extremely needy families.  We need to focus on the basic needs of the families.  We all started working towards this though we took more time than required due to some logistical issues we managed to pull through this in time. 

We decided to do distribution from our Mumbra and Kurla office as there were loads of restrictions, police nakabandis so it was easier for us to call women to office and help.  We further had to follow government guidelines of social distancing and other safety measures.

While doing this ration distribution help whoever came for asking help had varied reasons for asking help.  Some of the reasons were no jobs, offices/companies not open, eaten up of savings, et al and with all this; I was gaining a different kind of exposure.  Whereas there were many others who were doing relief work in Mumbra but still there were many in need and who had got no help from anyone.  

Single women, divorcees, widows, senior citizen women had different stories to narrate in this pandemic.  We felt satisfied and happy by helping all these families.  These beneficiaries came from backgrounds where it was difficult to have a square meal and the teenage, young girls and women were so happy to see the sanitary pads in the relief kit.  This Rs. 35 sanitary pad was like receiving the gold pieces in this pandemic crisis.  Some of the girls even called us to especially thank for the sanitary material in the kit.  

We got delayed or can say purposely delay our distribution as we wanted to help people who had not received any help.  In the discussions with the beneficiaries, we came to know that many political parties had taken their names and numbers but haven’t reverted for more than two months.  Some of them informed that they had received a ration kit which was enough for only some days.  most of the people who approached us were caretakers in schools, office going, jari workers, daily wage workers, drivers, domestic workers basically mainly from unorganised sector.  

These girls and women will be surely benefitted and will be able to get some relief for time being in their lives.  Most of the girls and women don’t treat Aawaaz-e-Niswaan as their classes but as their life where they come to get any and every help for any hurdles that they face in their lives.  Three months have completed the lockdown and many families stay on rent so some of the girls and women have approached us saying that their house owners have started demanding rent.  some of them were so stressed about being homeless soon if they didn’t pay their rent dues so I approached my friends and managed to help raise help for a few of the extremely serious cases.

Due to lockdown many companies/offices were delaying in paying salaries and this same happened with some of our girls and women so when they came to ask help we intervened by which two women got their salaries and another one is going to get her dues soon. 

We keep getting news of lockdown extensions then people started coming again for ration help and other kinds of help but we are unsure as well as the cases of infection are increasing as per the news and the lockdown getting stricter in certain areas, no offices working fully yet, and so on.  We remain unsure of the help we can do.