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Covid-19 Through The Development Management Lens

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

This is the first week of lockdown in India when the globe has already experienced 8.2 lakh confirmed cases and around 40 thousand deaths till date by the worldwide pandemic caused by COVID-19. The virus is brutally killing people around the globe and in India too, it confirmed its presence in over 1500 human bodies.

Recently, one of my friends asked an official of the state health department to serve the community as a volunteer in this difficult time of COVID-19 pandemic. However, they have not allowed him to do so. COVID-19 needs a specific set of people with specific knowledge and skillsets. As a development manager, we need to respond, but the question is, how can we?

COVID-19 and the pandemic created by it is certainly going to change and reshape a lot of things for the future. In the present context, there is a need for a lot of funds to handle the situation. After the period of lockdown, it can be assumed that the economic condition of the country will run through a lot of difficulties as specified by The Economic Times. A further fund crunch is expected since the government needs to spend a lot on prevention and treatment. In this situation, crowd-funding will be helpful and a few organizations like SAFA, Shakti Foundation and different government bodies are already doing that.

A development manager can innovate new strategies and ways of generating funds to serve the needy. On a positive note, several funders around the world are responding to this situation in a compassionate manner. An article published in IDR briefly explains how the funders can respond to this situation, from increased flexibility to release extra untied funds to their grantees.

ISDM COVID Innovate
Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

To deal with the present crisis and the consequences of this virus attack, collaboration would be very important where the government, NGOs and market can work closely using the complementary skill-sets these three sectors have. The government should take inputs from NGOs on preparing policies and strategies to serve the communities effectively to deal with the situation. Corporates are the huge resources of funds, tools and technology. Singapore is already using a contact tracing mechanism and other technologies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and it would be a pioneering step for us. Whereas to make that collaboration possible, effective communication by development managers will play an important role.

Context-specific planning needs to be done keeping in mind the diversity of Indian localities and other different factors e.g. rural-urban setting, religious beliefs, rate of literacy, occupation variations among people (organized/unorganized), language, power dynamics in the society. Collaboration with different local organizations, institutions and resource persons will be helpful to tackle the hazards of COVID-19 as those sources have a better understanding of the ground and local context. That can also help in terms of utilizing local resources and in mobilizing resources effectively. Few social purpose and philanthropic organizations like RAHI, GOONJ, Omidyar network, Apnalaya have reached out to vulnerable sections of the society. A development manager’s role is much more critical to respond to this crisis within a limited timeframe. Creating a nudge to make people understand the need to be physically isolated will also be helpful in this scenario.

Another important factor that development managers can think about post this pandemic, is the importance of risk management i.e. non-programme factors of a Program Theory. We have heard several times that prevention is better than cure. To prevent this kind of situation in future, there should be more than one risk mitigation plan in place. Accordingly, there would be a need for a huge amount of resources to tackle this kind of situation. Collecting and managing these huge amounts of resources is critical. Is not it the right time for social purpose organisations to also think about business continuity plans?

So, the role of a development manager is multi-dimensional. Most importantly, along with serving the needy, there is the need to think about the survival of the organization itself and to find a way to normalize the operations of the organization to keep the employees and stakeholders satisfied. The managers need to put their energy in strategic planning, resource optimization, employee engagement along with doing proper financial management. The most important part of the planning is to continue the outreach operations to serve the needy and at the same time, being safe and keeping the stakeholders safe. There is the urgency to invest a good amount of extra financial resources also to continue the operations in this situation.

Social Purpose Organizations will have to play a crucial role to deal with the consequences. In a few cases, NGOs and governments are working together. As this outbreak is creating fear, there is the chance that sectors like tourism will get a shock. Due to the economic crisis, there would be an emerging need for people in the unorganized sector to have alternative livelihood options. NGOs and government and corporate can work here in collaboration to take care of the people.

This is the time when the world is facing a crisis of good leadership. A right decision taken in the right time can change the way we live our lives. It can also shift the designing of interventions for impact; can save the world from another epidemic. As development managers are equipped with a different set of mindset, skills and tools, this could be the right time to apply them. Maybe even a few new domains like poverty alleviation, public health and nutrition, will be given more importance in future in response to this kind of outbreak.

Collectively, this is the time to reflect, to think and generate new ideas to make the world a better place to live. It is good to see that the world is moving towards a global response plan, which is much needed, where the UN has launched a US $2 billion global humanitarian response. We have seen the urgency of various funders, philanthropists, corporate organizations, government bodies, and regional and national Social Purpose Organizations to tackle the situation. This does create hope to build a better future together, where we will work for both people and the planet.

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About The Author: This piece has been written by Nilanjan Panda, who is a student of the ISDM Class of 2020 in the 1 Year Post Graduate Program in Development Leadership.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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