This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by ISDM. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

COVID-19: How Can We Expand The Development Sector?

More from ISDM

From the first reported case of COVID-19 on January 30, till date, there are over 3 lakh confirmed cases. There has been a huge shift in response to different countries. In India, when the world’s biggest lockdown was announced on April 24, industries, sectors, businesses, communities, and the Government reacted in different ways to combat the pandemic.

As we know, the lockdown has a different effect on all spectrums of society. The situation for the most marginalized and the most vulnerable communities are overlooked. The marginalized communities are battling with the sudden unemployability the lockdown has caused. They have been denied wages, opportunities to earn a living, and to go to their villages. What it means for them is a difficulty to cross between two borders, due to the closure of dhabas, food joints, public transport, and commutation facilities. The lack of enough resources has forced many migrants to walk hundreds of miles home. The result is the “blindspot” for at least 200 mn migrant laborers who are grappling with this situation.

However, after the lockdown, different organizations and bodies came into place to tackle the situation in their different capacities. There have been different kinds of engagements on every side, which are:

  • Individual and group efforts helping with funds and also providing rations, essential commodities, and cooked meals.
  • Funders and donors providing donations, grants, funds to different groups/organizations to serve the needy and strengthen their response on relief work.
  • Different community-based organizations are serving their community, mostly providing relief materials/ration/cooked foods to the poorest and needy population.
  • Networks and platforms are making different initiatives visible and connecting the needy and those who are in need.
  • The media is also making the efforts visible.
Source: Sukhibhava Facebook

Given the urgency of the situation, these players have been strategically planning to help those who are in need. Be it providing rations, cooked meals, packages, or other facilities like equipment, materials, etc. The coherent idea was to entail a strategy that is in line with the response and relief to those in need and to settle the dust around the situation.

On those lines, the Sukhibhava Foundation evolved to respond effectively in a coherent manner. The response was to support the grassroot organizations and make them visible through a platform. The initial idea was to reach the organizations on a pan-India basis and understand the challenges they are currently facing. A lot of organizations are acting as a supporter of other organizations.

In this space, Sukhibhava decided to act as an interface between the grassroot organizations and the platform to catalyze the change for better outreach. Our main focus was to understand if they are facing any language or technology barriers and if these barriers are limiting their interaction with the larger ecosystem. It was essential to equip the organization in the long run and examine the potential skills for a pool of resources.

The first step was to connect to some grassroot organizations that we know of and know more about their work and the challenges that they are facing. This was critical to examine the future course of action and map out if the language or technology issue is really existing. Upon which, we got to know about more organizations that are facing the same issue. The curious process to know more about the scenario brought out certain patterns that made us consider our next action points.

Upon, connecting with different organizations we observed the following:

  • Collaboration – A lot of collaborative efforts are going on at this time. Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) are collaborating with the government, the communities they are working for, some other groups, and with other Social Purpose Organizations. The collaboration is in terms of getting funds, material support, support by getting human resources and guidance in planning and implementation. However, these collaborative efforts are helping the society to sustain at this time and also making the work more effective as different bodies are using different capacities and finally they are converging at a single point of focus.
  • Crisis management – Those who are working in response to this scenario, are working with very little resources and most of them are in need of funds. Some of the techniques they are using are through crowdfunding, word-of-mouth, etc. The organizations that are working with these complex problems are doing a commendable job in this situation and utilizing available resources optimally.
  • Adaptability and innovation – Organizations, to serve the community at this time are trying their best in adopting different approaches to minimize the hazards and to maximize the impact. As the movement is restricted due to the lockdown, they have started online and telephonic sessions with the staff, resource persons and communities they work with. As there is an urgent need to discuss this COVID-19 situation, they have started a discussion on it and are also aligning their work with this pandemic or planning to address the effects of this pandemic in line with their work. Using native languages.
  • Post pandemic plans – Different organizations are planning to provide relief depending on the context and as per the emerging needs. They are working to address the gaps that are emerging due to this pandemic and the after-effects. However, to tackle this situation, there is a need for the long term and effective planning. Organizations know their community well. They have analyzed the post-pandemic situation and they have brilliant ideas to control and minimize the post-pandemic hazards i.e. livelihood creation, preventing hunger, etc.

Along the way we found some challenges that are still existing and need some thought to be put on which are:

  • As there are no existing databases present to identify and map out the basis of their capacities and the kind of work they do, it was very difficult to find the organizations that match our criteria. Reaching to these organizations came out as a very difficult task to complete.
  • Also, on the other hand, it was difficult to reach out to the right person who is taking care of the COVID-19 initiative from the funder’s or donor’s side.
  • Mapping out the organizations based on the conversation is a challenge here since the ground reality is not visible at this moment, and also it is difficult to do a reality check in person.
  • Challenges to fill the gap by the Social Purpose Organizations which are operating on a larger scale.
Source: Sukhibhava Facebook

While working for this initiative, we observed some positive sides which gave us a glimpse of hope and also a number of challenges. There were some gaps still existing, which were making the process slow or emerging as a barrier in the process. However, we realized that the existing gaps need to be replenished to make an effective impact. For which we identified some scopes:

  • Technology- As it was difficult to find the organizations that are working on the ground and facing different challenges, it would be good to prepare a database of the SPOs who are working in different areas. Technology can be helpful in terms of mapping them out and then making them visible within the ecosystem and to channelize resources as per the need. The database will help to identify the organizations and resourceful groups that can work to build their capacity so that they can make their impact more effective and increase their sustenance. It will also help the development sector in taking different initiatives in the future.
  • Special provisions– Funders can make special provisions to help them with funds and share the due diligence process so that they can have access to that. They can also design the reporting format as per the need. There the process should be clearly explained to remove the confusion.
  • Role of Media– Media is working as a good platform to bring different initiatives into the notice of the people. But, in some cases, reaching out to the right person is difficult. There is the need to have specific information regarding the communication channel and they should also respond to the organizations in need.
  • GovernmentSocial Purpose Organization collaboration– We found that in some places, Social Purpose Organizations are ready to serve but are having difficulties in getting permission from the government to do the needful work. However, it would be a great opportunity for both of them to work and make an impact on the ground. The impact would be more effective when both the bodies will serve the community from their complementary skills and capacities.

The current scenario is a silver lining for the social sector to work in collaboration and have a collective impact. A ray of hope still lies to respond and replenish the situation in a more effective manner. This can be done by a brave initiate of Sukhibhava to think differently to something new and bring a widespread change.

About the Author: This piece has been written by Nilanjan Panda and Shradha Bahuguna, students of the ISDM Class of 2020 in the 1-Year Post-Graduate Program in Development Leadership.


You must be to comment.

More from ISDM

Similar Posts

By Sonal Prasad

By Ridhima Manocha

By Arshya

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below