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Does The Social Responsibility Of Corporates End ‘During’ Covid-19?

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

On the night of 31st December, people would have never imagined that the new year, which they were praying to be lucky and better, was going to turn into a nightmare that will have an enduring effect on their lives.

From the beginning, as the infection started spreading rapidly, governments of every country started using all types of resources that they have to study the unprecedented situation and to react accordingly. From country-wide lockdowns to unlock down, from increasing rate of testing and production of Personal Protective Equipment(PPE) to the development of vaccines, it’s an all-round battle for the government authorities, health workers, corporate sector and citizens. Extended lockdowns have further worsened economic troubles, but unless the vaccine is ready, social distancing, testing, and isolating is all we got to prevent the spread of this transmittable disease.

Representational image.

In this critical situation when revenue is insufficient for union and state governments both, most of the corporates and NGOs in Indian economy wholeheartedly extending their support and are playing significant roles in the distribution of sanitizers, PPE kits, ventilators with essential equipment and creating awareness of social distancing as an aid to mitigate the spread of this deadly infection COVID-19.

Here, comes the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which plays a crucial role in the age of this pandemic COVID-19, where people are trying their level best to get through this tremendous challenging time. CSR in general can be referred to as a corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare.

India was the first country to make CSR mandatory and it is governed by Section 135 of the Companies Act,2013. Schedule VII of the Companies Act,2013 provides the list of activities that can be included in CSR.

Every company having a net worth of Rs 500 crores or more, or turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or net profit of Rs 5 crore or more during the immediately preceding financial year, must have a CSR committee and spend at least 2% of the average net profits earned during three immediately preceding financial years to CSR activities.

Ministry of Corporate Affairs in March this year, issued a circular mentioning that “all expenditures incurred on activities related to COVID-19, will be added as the permissible avenues for CSR expenditure including contribution to PM-cares Fund and State Disaster Management authority.”

It is mutually beneficial for both government and corporate businesses and the final absolute gainer will be a society as a whole. As an aftermath of this decision, some major contribution by Tata and Reliance Industries who pledged Rs 1500 crores and Rs 500 crores respectively with Reliance Ltd to distribute Rs 50 lakh mask and sanitizers for free. Adani foundation contributed Rs 100 crores to PM CARES, Larsen and Toubro announced Rs 150 crore and it provided its 1.60 lakh workers during the lockdown.

Besides donation from big conglomerates, many firms and individuals donated their one day salary, or a generous amount of money, essential equipment, collaborated with NGO’s to run community kitchens. Not to forget Apps based companies like Tiktok, Paytm, Zomato, Swiggy, etc. Also donated to PM CARES. Many corporate businesses also contributed to awareness programs like that of the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited(BPCL) awareness program in Nuh district, AMUL’s awareness campaign through its daily cartoons in newspapers and magazines, etc.

It is not the question of whether donations are adequate or not. What matters in these crises is the reach of facilities to diverse sections of society.

covid test
Representational image.

Concerns Related To Corporate Social Responsibility

One of the major concerns related to CSR is its mismanagement of funding to targeted states or areas because recent reports have shown that Maharashtra, Gujrat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan are major beneficiaries and least benefited are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha who are more in crisis due to their migrated, unemployed workers. To resolve this problem, corporations should collaborate with NGOs which have a better understanding of specific needs and problems so that optimum use of funds can be done.

Another concern is about corporates finding reliable NGOs to collaborate and a way to monitor and track the use of funds and its impact.

CSR in Post-COVID times

It is very much evident that governments’ revenue receipts are decreasing and there are no signs of recovery to normal in few more months to come which implies that it will be a compulsion on the government to reduce expenditure on many next to essentials goods and services. A recent announcement by the government in September 2019 has widened the scope of CSR activities.
Officials mentioned that “now CSR 2% fund can be spent on incubators funded by central or state government or any agency or public sector undertaking of central and state government and making a contribution to publicly funded universities like IIT’s, national laboratories, and autonomous bodies like DRDO, ICAR, ICMR, etc.”

It means that even after cutting in the expenditure by the government, these institutions will have a sort of backup and it will boost the development in research in this pandemic situation as well. Although only 10,800 companies complied out of 21,300 companies, spending on CSR has gone up from Rs 10,066 crore in 2014-2015 to Rs 13,327 crore in 2017-2018. It was the highest in education, health, fight against poverty and malnutrition, etc.

Another benefit of CSR in the days to come will be the preventing deterioration of gains made in the area of Child Rights and Girl Rights. Since we all know that economic growth will decline further because of frequent lockdowns, hence, low production due to less amount of workforce means low income and thus, low consumption. This might push lots of children into child labour, malnutrition may rise, the underage marriage of girls may rise due to poverty. All this support will not only better the image of the companies in the market but it will also free up some fiscal space for the government.

In the coming months and years, it will not only be the government’s responsibility to fill the gap created in the economy due to this pandemic crisis but also of corporations and other capable authorities and organizations. Every stakeholder should complement each other because we are in this together. As Bill Ford said,  creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals, they are both essential ingredients for long term success.

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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.

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.

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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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