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How Has Covid-19 Affected Migrant Workers And What Can You Do To Help Them?

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Covid-19 has had a great impact on everybody’s life. This pandemic in which we are still surviving has been a curse for us. COVID-19 is defined as an illness caused by a novel coronavirus, called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which was first identified amid an outbreak of respiratory illness cases in Wuhan City, China.

The virus flourished worldwide, and billions of people had to lose their lives because of the virus. According to the statistics in 2021, 1,36,99,048 have tested Covid positive, 1,71,121 have died and 1,22,54,410 have recovered from the virus.  

india migrant worker
A migrant worker wears a face mask as he walks towards his home state during the nationwide lockdown. (Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

As I said in the foremost line, we were affected by the coronavirus’s aftermath and so it also wrapped the daily wage earners. In the lockdown, the struggle of daily wage workers got real. Since Covid and the lockdown, there has been a severe crisis of employment opportunities in local labour markets. People have had to migrate from one city to another in search of money.

Think about the street vendors who earn their livelihood by feeding you the food you crave for. Their life was devastated in this period because selling food was the only source of income for their family. Getting work for even 2 days a week is difficult for them.

Daily wages, too, for any work possible, have dipped by half. As per the IGSSS developmental project rapid research, around 1.3 billion daily wage earners were impacted by Covid-19. The observations are that there is a significant income loss for rural households; loss of livelihoods for small and marginal farmers, landless families, and daily wage earners, further compounding them into severe poverty, unfavourable compromises and ill health.

Farmers faced an impasse as they could not work on their farmland, did not get lucrative prices for their produce and access to markets. Data from Lucknow indicates that the mean monthly income (from labour work) has fallen by 62%, that is, from ₹9,500 per month in pre-pandemic times to ₹3,500 now. In Pune, too, an average worker’s mean monthly income fell from ₹10,000 to ₹4,500, a 54.5% decline.

Even after the lockdown, most of those from outside the city haven’t been called for work. Those from outside the state are being discouraged from coming and working. A few of them who managed to come, prospective employers would say, “You have come from out of town and would have brought the virus with you”.

Migrant workers carrying their belongings walk along a
Migrant workers carrying their belongings walk along a railway track returning to their home. (Photo by Amarjeet Kumar Singh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

There has been a considerable plunge in wages of daily workers. In Lucknow, mean daily wages fell from ₹430 to ₹360 per day. Similarly, in Pune, wage rates fell from ₹450 to ₹390 per day. Usually, wage determination in a given labour market is dependent on numerous factors: nature of work, identity, the average experience of the worker in a vocation, home state of the worker and more.

Researchers in Pune observed that workers who have worked in the city for a longer duration (for example, 10 years) began their wage negotiations at a higher wage.

Seeing that we are aware that social media brings our attention towards any issue prevailing in a society. Thus, helping the daily wage earners, social media acts as a leg-up for them. Besides that, I want to pen down few effective ways to succour them:

  • With the support of NGOs, we can generate different helpline numbers, and with this, we can easily approach them and help with necessities like foods and grocery items.
  • To make operations sustainable, very distributing dry rations — creating your version of food packs will be effective.
  • Donate charity to support immediate and long-term relief to the daily wage workers, agriculture labourers. Try to donate groceries kit, sanitiser, mask to families of daily wage workers.
  • Educating people by conducting sensitisation campaigns on hygiene, cleanliness to prevent the coronavirus.

I know the condition is really bad for all of us and surviving the battle day to day is getting worse. We cannot fulfil all the requirement of farmers or the daily wage earners who lost their livelihood, but at least we can combine and contribute together, so their life gets settled.

I wanted to put down my thoughts about what I feel about the condition of the daily wage earners and that’s why I started writing this article. It’s rightly said or heard that this thing cannot be experienced further, so whatever you are going through, you must not regret it later.

This time will pass and you will not even get a minute to do what you want. I didn’t want to get that penitence and so started utilising it by helping the people who require it.

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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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