This interview was conducted as a part of a research study funded by the Azim Premji University under the Covid-19 Research Funding Programme 2020. The study delves into the experiences of frontline workers in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was conducted with an Anganwadi worker in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh on January 9, 2021, in Hindi and has been translated.
Q: During the past several months, you have been involved with pandemic-related work. Can you give a brief overview of what your pandemic and non-pandemic duties were?
Anganwadi worker (AW): I had a lot of responsibilities. The major one was to conduct surveys of people who had come to the village from outside. I had to visit them and guide them on how to isolate themselves and what practices to follow. In March and April 2020, we didn’t have enough training or knowledge, so we would quarantine them for 21 days, but now we do it only for 15 days.
After the initial guideline, I visited these people every 2-3 days to check if there were symptoms that needed attention and if the rules were being followed properly. I was also going door-to-door to spread awareness about Covid-19. I was telling people how to use masks and sanitisers, and how to practice social distancing.
Apart from pandemic-related work, my regular work also continued. It was not possible to gather students, so we went to their houses to teach. Other activities such as routine immunisations and Take Home Ration (THR) were halted for the first few months (March-April 2020), but continued later smoothly.
We also went to people’s houses to note the weight of pregnant women and malnourished/stunted children because our Primary Health Centre is very small and we were advised to not have a large gathering at the centre.
Q: What was your relationship with other frontline workers (Auxiliary Nurse Midwives or ANMs, other Anganwadi workers, and ASHA workers) or other corona warriors in your area post the pandemic? For instance, how did you coordinate with each other?
AW: There was coordination between AWWs, ASHAs and ANMs since the beginning. We coordinated with each other via WhatsApp and divided our survey population so that all households can be surveyed on time. We coordinated on our non-pandemic duties as well. We met in the camps that were set up once every month and discussed our work and challenges. The supervisors were also present in these meetings.
Q: Did you receive any support from your immediate supervisor to carry out these activities?
AW: The supervisors were understanding throughout. Once I had to tell them that I cannot survey an area because there were no roads, which made it very tough for me to travel. They understood and allocated that area to some other frontline worker. However, their supervision was limited to guidance. They never visited the field. On the field, we were on our own.
Covid-related work was always urgent, so they didn’t give us enough time to complete our tasks. My supervisors would keep asking me to deliver medicines from one place to another or submit reports urgently. However, there were a lot of times when I was not able to do this and they would understand. There were never any penalties or punishments, although they would always encourage us to complete our tasks on time.
Q: What motivated you to come to work and carry out your activities during the pandemic?
AW: My biggest motivation was the fact that the community was very supportive. They followed the rules and were respectful. I have been in this field for 13 years, but it was never my choice to work here. I only took this job because I didn’t get anything else. During the pandemic, when the work increased exponentially, I would seek motivation from the people who were dependent on me.
The community of frontline workers was also a major driving force. We worked together, the sense of togetherness made me feel nice about my work. We took refresher courses together on the protocols that were needed to treat Covid-19 and talked about our experiences. I also looked at the larger context in which I was working. I had the good fortune of being employed during a time when people were struggling for food and work, so how could I complain?