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#StoriesfromtheField | Powering through the Pandemic

By Flarantxa Pereira

Rukmani* and Jaya* visit Kolhapuri Pisegaon daily. Kholhapuri and the other villages are assigned to Rukmani and Jaya is located a good 10 km away from their homes in Bhilai. Daily these women and other wellness coordinators working with Berojgar Mahila Sewa Samiti (BMSS), travel to the outskirts of Chhattisgarh to meet with the local villagers and the Self Help Groups (SHG).

These daily visits didn’t stop during the COVID-19 breakout, in fact, they continued on and became a staple. Daily these women would visit the villages going door to door to raise awareness around the virus and inform them of the support they could provide. In August 2021, BMSS partnered with the #COVIDActionCollab and began implementing the High Impact Intervention (HII) among the communities in rural Chhattisgarh and Bihar.

Wellness coordinators wouldn’t just visit the villages to raise COVID awareness, but also facilitate health camps to detect any Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), provide the necessary medication, and raise awareness surrounding the vaccine. The vaccine was where they faced some of their biggest challenges. Many villagers including the younger individuals were hesitant about taking the vaccination. They would ask for written assurance that if they were to die due to taking the vaccine, their families would be taken care of. Many also wanted money and were only then willing to get the vaccine. This is where BMSS began working with the local leaders, using them as influencers within the communities to increase the uptake of the vaccine. Eventually, through rigorous follow-up, BMSS was able to reach over five lakh individuals through their vaccine awareness interventions.

With minimal resources at their disposal, the wellness coordinators at BMSS continue to reach the most vulnerable. When asked why they do this Jaya said “My family was initially skeptical about me working during COVID, but now they’re very proud of me. Even my children go and tell their friends that I’m a social worker. I do this because there is a need in the community, I want to help as many people as I can in whatever way I can. Yes, this work is hard but the reward is worth it.”

About BMSS:

Based out of Bhilai, Chhattisgarh, Berojgar Mahila Sewa Samiti was established in 1986 and has been working in the areas of gender, health, education, and child and youth development among others.