Saviours in the Pandemic Resurrected Hope

Bhubaneswar: Development of a state or a society depends wholly on the development of its women folk and it has been proved true in the case of Odisha which has seen incredible transformation in women empowerment and as a result overall development of the society. The journey of Odisha in the last two decades has been propelled by increased thrust on empowering the women and bringing them to the foreground of development. While the deprivation and marginalization of women power has been relegated to the back, Odisha today is experiencing an extraordinary growth model which has very few parallels.

With Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the helm for the last two decades, the slogan of women empowerment has got a new meaning. Holistic growth agenda with full support of the government machinery has today transformed the women of the state. Today, they are empowered. They are transformed. They are happy for their contribution to the growth and development of the state. Today they are able to express their feelings more openly. They are today free from the four walls of the house and going high in the open skies.

Stepping out of the shadow of men, the women of Odisha are carving a new path of cooperation and growth. The government has also ensured women in the state equal opportunities. Their empowerment, in fact, has improved the quality of society which is more balanced today. Through interventions such as Mission Shakti, Odisha has demonstrated that women are the embodiments of true Shakti – the power.

While the role of women in the development of the state in the last two decades is exemplary, it has shown a new paradigm during the Coronavirus pandemic. The worst crisis of the century in the form of Covid-19 has brought to the fore the spirit of women from different walks of life. In their many roles such as SHG members, frontline Covid-workers, Anganwadi Didis, ANMs and ASHA karmis, they have showed the world what they are the power to reckon with.

The Self Help Group Members of Odisha became a formidable force in the fight against Covid-19. Initially, when the pandemic started and the demand for masks increased, they came as a savior. Without wasting time, they engaged themselves in making masks and within days the shortage vanished. SHGs from various districts manufactured cotton masks and supplied to offices, hospitals and sold in the markets. They made more than a crore masks in the first eight months of the pandemic and thereby helped in containing the spread of the virus. It not only gave them economic benefits during the stressful period, but also helped the government in its fight against pandemic.

The activities of Women Self Help Groups not only confined to indoors. Soon after the lockdown was enforced to contain the spread of Coronavirus, members of the women SHGs volunteered to feed the homeless and destitute affected by the lockdown and stoppage of movement of vehicles. The self Help Groups under the aegis of Mission Shakti, led by its Director Sujata R. Karthikeyan, prepared food for distribution among poor and marginalized and also fed the lakhs of people migrating on the highways. More than 7000 SHGs are today engaged in this task at present.

The all important health service mechanism is today supported by the dedicated nurses and frontline workers. They have stood as a formidable force against the Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands of nurses along with doctors have treated a large number of Covid-19 patients without fear. Their contribution in the fight against the pandemic can never be ignored. Not only them, the thousands of auxiliary nurse midwives or the ANMs engaged by the Odisha government held the shield at the grassroots. They constituted the most important part of Government’s Covid management strategy. At the ground level they helped the millions of people stay healthy and secure. Likewise, Anganwadi Didis and the ASHA Karmis also did a tremendous task by going house to house during the pandemic and checking the health of the family members especially children and pregnant women.

The entire health service mechanism is being supported by hundreds of nurses. While nurses are directly handling the patients, thousands of auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) and Anganwadi and ASHA workers are going house to house to check the health of the people.

The contribution of women during the pandemic narrates the spirit of women from different strata of society which kept the morale of the society high. Their undying resilience that had powered them to navigate this humanitarian crisis reaffirms how formidable they are in terms of grit and gumption. Their beauty and brain, risk and resilience reflected the colors of our civilizational ethos during the dark period of Covid-19 pandemic.

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