Empowering women is the need of the hour. Women getting an education, healthcare, safety, equal opportunity, and a life of independence and dignity has been a mission for visionaries around the globe. As per a report by McKinsey, an estimated $770 billion would be added to India’s economy by 2025, if gender equality is effectively achieved in the country.
However, the mission and hopes of millions of women and men to empower every woman in the world have come to a sudden pause in the midst of the recent pandemic of Coronavirus disease or COVID-19 which has infected over 3 million people globally in the last five months.
As per the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a woman is affected thrice as much as a man due to this epidemic. A working woman with children now is working from home, doing household duties, taking care of kids, and now also needs to pay attention to homeschooling her children to prevent them from having a mental breakdown from being locked inside the house all the time. This is the “triple shift”, i.e. three times the amount of stress a woman is suffering from due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Young girls face a possible loss of education due to the lack of digital device making them vulnerable to early marriage and exploitative relationships. Presently, 743 million (UNWomen report) are out of school and adolescent girls are the most at risk of facing gender-based violations starting with the loss of education.
Smile Foundation has been actively working in empowering women and in turn strengthening their families and communities for the past 15 years. Under its vertical with a focus towards empowering women, Swabhiman, Smile creates awareness among women in underprivileged communities about their health, education, and essential needs during periods, pregnancy, and prioritizing their health and welfare to take better care of their children and families. Alongside this, academically high-achieving girls are provided yearly scholarships until the completion of their college to promote girl education and encourage families to prioritize their education over social and domestic duties.
Continuing the work to promote girl education and women welfare during the COVID-19 crisis that has put a third of the world’s population into lockdown to cut the spread of the virus, Swabhiman officers and community mobilizers are still working on the field to help women in underprivileged communities. With the country in lockdown, most of the daily wage and migrant workers have lost their source of income as well as are not able to acquire essential resources for their survival. Women are especially susceptible to the worst of it for they will put the needs of their children and families before attending to themselves. To help women take care of themselves as well as their families, Swabhiman community mobilizers have crucial in dry ration distribution to such women and address their healthcare needs as well during a time when everyone and everything is focused on fighting the pandemic.
Through telephonic calls and text messages, the mobilizers have kept in constant touch with the existing beneficiaries to help them deal with the stress of the situation and help them reach all the support necessary to help them ease through this period. In the past 3 weeks, these mobilizers have also facilitated four institutional deliveries by helping pregnant women understand the signs of labor and bringing them to the hospital and ensure that these women get the necessary medical attention during childbirth.
Smile also ensured that its Swabhiman Scholars are able to continue their studies digitally during the lockdown and not losing out on any opportunity to progress even as the world has come to a standstill. These adolescent girls under the scholarship program were given tablets which have been of immense help to them in continuing their studies online.
Guardians of the girls who don’t have tablets but do have a smartphone at home are regularly counseled and advised to let the device be accessible to the scholars for the purpose of their studies. The girls are also being presented with material and resources along with few apps for online courses to not lose even a day’s worth of studies as well as engaged in English communication courses to make the most of their time at home.
As the world works relentlessly to fight and stop the pandemic, Smile Foundation ensures to fulfill its existing responsibilities towards women and society and not let a pandemic become an obstacle for girls and women in achieving a brighter future and a healthier life that empowers them to realize the best of their potential.
To help in empowering girls and women donate on https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/she-can-fly/