Founded in 2008 by Renuka Jadhav, Kranti Mahila Sangh (KMS) is an organisation that works for the upliftment of sex workers and people living with HIV in Maharashtra’s Solapur. Through their relentless efforts, Kranti Mahila Sangh strives to address the problem of limited access to healthcare services for the sex worker community. For the last four years, KMS has been working closely with Swasti Health Catalyst which has been instrumental in its functioning and growth.
People belonging to vulnerable communities were severely impacted by the lockdown that followed the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 because they had no means of support. KMS’ work ranges from educating women, promoting financial independence among them to guaranteeing them access to healthcare. During the lockdown, the ground staff at KMS ensured that the support reached the community members in the form of ration kits, vaccinations drives etc. However, the team initially found persuading people to consent to vaccinations to be challenging because there were rumours spread across villages about how receiving the vaccine may harm them. “To educate our community members about the advantages of vaccination for their health, we teamed together with local leaders. With our collective efforts, we administered vaccination to 20,000 individuals from the community,” Jadhav shared.
Along with administering vaccinations, it was important to ensure that the community members received mental health counselling sessions to cope with the distress and confusion amid the pandemic. “Through our collaboration with #COVIDActionCollab (CAC), it was possible for KMS to receive virtual training on COVID-appropriate behavior such as maintaining social distancing, compulsory masking etc. This further helped the staff of KMS and community members in dealing with several health-related issues that cropped up around this time,” she shared.
“This period also taught us how to take care of our own needs, including our health and finances. We never used to do any of these earlier. Livelihoods are still a pressing need for the community members and creating opportunities for them is crucial now more than ever, and having an alternate source of income has become really important since they now know the uncertainty of the situation. The women we work with want to be independent and we are making sure that we put all our efforts into guaranteeing them meaningful and respectful lives,” Jadhav added. By working alongside #COVIDActionCollab and its social protection programme, KMS also ensures that the women they work with have access to schemes launched by the government.
“People were initially very scared for their health, and livelihoods,” shared Sarika Kalkuhe who has been working with KMS as a community mobilizer for the last four years. “Even though the fear has reduced now, people are not very keen on taking vaccinations. We have therefore put in additional effort to ensure that they come forward for the vaccination. Convincing women is a real challenge when it comes to this, however, we have reached 90% of the people through the first two doses at least. To address this issue, we are going door-to-door to understand the real reason behind their hesitancy and we counsel them. We also share the stories of other people who have taken vaccinations with the community members,” added Kalkuhe.
As someone who is fond of people and likes to interact with them and solve their problems, Kalkuhe chose to be a community mobilizer with KMS. “The training that #COVIDActionCollab (CAC) has given us through the course of our partnership with KMS has helped us grow in our personal lives as well. It has helped us in improving our communication with the community to achieve better outcomes and reach our vaccination goals.”
Through our collaboration with partner organizations such as Kranti Mahila Sangh, we have been working with individuals like Renuka and Sarika who have direct access to the communities. This has helped us in ensuring that those from marginalised communities in the remotest of villages across the country get the care and support they deserve and that they remain resilient amid challenges.