Author: Planindia

Building hope and resilience in times of COVID

Bishnupur and its life in COVID-19 

If you google “Bishnupur village” you would find many villages across India with this name, but today I will be taking you on a journey to Bishunpur village in Saran district of Bihar. Plan India has been working with the village community for more than 12 years, and after the COVID pandemic many families in the village are constantly seeking awareness, guidance and support to tide over the challenge. Due to the COVID restrictions in the state, this beautiful village hardly had any person walking its dusty roads when Satyendra and Deepak, Plan India’s frontline workers reach this village to spread awareness on COVID appropriate behaviour and extend food aid for the COVID affected poor and vulnerable families.

Satyandra, Programme Unit Coordinator

Deepak, Plan India’s frontline worker

Plan India’s first-hand pandemic experience 

As they reach the distribution site, it was already noon and extensively humid. Covered with face shield, masks and gloves, they somehow manage to wipe the sweat from their forehead. They are taking extra precaution as 55 villagers have been infected with COVID, while some have recovered there are still few active cases. For the past few days, they have been visiting villages and distributing nutritional dry food kit which contains a sizeable quantity of rice, wheat, pulses, cooking oil as well as protein powder among others.

Given the unprecedented surge in COVID cases and its adverse impact on the poorest of the poor families, Plan India, as part of its humanitarian mandate, immediately set up an aid drive wherein 100,000 COVID infected and affected families will be provided food and nutrition baskets. The reach of this project covers Plan India’s programme areas in 30 districts spread across 8 States.

When Plan India met Rachna – a Bishnupur resident mother!

As Satyendra and Deepak patiently wait, 35 year-old Rachna rustles in with her 11 year-old daughter Pooja Kumari. A smile lits on her face when she is handed over the nutritional food basket by the Plan India team, comprising of dry rations for a family of five members to last some 30 days. Pooja who had her ludo board game clutched in her hands drops it and tries to pry into the box.  While gently chiding her, Rachna shares that since schools have been shut down, “it is becoming difficult to keep the children occupied. So much of energy and no outlet to be spent.”

Rachna and Pooja Kumari

Rachna was diagnosed as COVID positive three weeks back. Few days ago she did an antigen test, and it came out negative. She gives credit to the measures that she and her family undertook– maintaining isolation, taking medicines including homemade ones and praying to their deity.

“It was really tough but I was able to isolate myself from my family members. I suffered mild symptoms of fever and cold,” remembers Rachna. “More than the discomfort from COVID, we were surprised to be see how our neighbours shunned us. Even today when my reports have come out negative, they are avoiding us. Even if they visit us, they avoid drinking or eating our food. There is a new discrimination that we are seeing,” rues Rachna. While the adults were in conversation, Pooja comments “My friends did not want to play with me.” Upon being asked the reasons – she responds solemnly, “Maa had COVID.”

Is COVID-19 stigma and vaccine hesitancy real? 

COVID stigmatisation and vaccine hesitancy is a common prevalence seen across the country. Plan India is tackling this issue through advocacy while also encouraging people to get vaccinated and adopt COVID appropriate behaviour as part of their daily life. “Continuous efforts are required since misinformation from the local news agencies and social media is deeply entrenched,” shared Satyendra.

Hope – the key to survival

When Rachna opens the dry ration kit, the smile is back on her face. She tallies the item as it not only means easy availability of food but also a saving of INR 3000-3500 from her household expenses. A respite as her husband – a daily wage earner, has been unable to get regular work for the past few months.

Rachna and Pooja Kumari

Satyendra, Plan India team leader responsible for coordinating the humanitarian and development work in the district, goes on to explain that due to COVID there has been a tremendous loss of livelihoods impacting adversely the income of the villagers who are largely daily wage earners. This problem is further compounded as they face competition from the labourers who have returned to their village from cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Gujarat. With no jobs around and dwindling incomes, most of these families are surviving by borrowing money often from the local money lender at 5% interest rate which is much higher than normal times. However, a sense of optimism and hope still prevails for better times once the COVID situation is normalised.

#HelpIndiaHeal can and is making a difference

Under the #Helpindiaheal project, as on 1st June 2021, Plan India has reached out to 18,695 people with Nutritional Food Kit, facilitated the vaccine registration of 63,440 people onto the Government app and portal, and supported 18,054 people to get their first jab and 4,691 their second. It has also directly sensitised 1,73,863 on COVID appropriate behaviour and vaccination.

Written By

Pinky Pradhan, Director – Communications and Strategic Partnerships

The Power of ‘We’ for an equal world

Partnerships go a long way in driving meaningful digital engagement for non-profits during campaigns and make the cause relatable in a pandemic impacted world.

Digital has never been more important for charities than in 2020, as Covid-19 forced non-profits to embrace the “new normal” – in which digital enabled technologies and platforms play a major, long-term role in mobilising communities, campaigning and fundraising. And while doing so it is imperative that we need to re-invent, re-strategies and put our acts together in a real time bound manner.

As an organisation, Plan India is committed to the cause of promoting girls rights and equality. As a humanitarian organisation, while we were at the forefront of COVID-19 response, providing immediate relief and aid to more than a million population, we also set about executing an ambitious digital campaign #EqualUnlock mobilising partners and hundreds of girls from the most marginalised section of the society. Putting the spotlight on rights of girls and their agency is all the more important as often such issues slip through the cracks in the larger scheme of things. We should not let COVID upend decades of work around gender equality.

The campaign #EqualUnlock conceived as part of the International Day of the Girl which falls on 11 October, challenged stereotypes that hold them back or question their capabilities based on gender. The spirit of the campaign was: It is proven that girls have the potential to lead companies and countries through positions of power and be Unconquerable. They strive to fight their battles of freedom and be Unafraid. In a world that ties them with limiting stereotypes and unequal representation, they choose to be Unstoppable. In a post COVID world we should not let girls fight alone but be their voice because it’s time for an #EqualUnlock.

Each October since 2016, led by different Plan International offices, thousands of girls all over the world have taken over positions of power including those of Presidents, Ambassadors, CEOs and Chief Editors as part of a global movement in support of gender equality. Given the new normal created by COVID-19 physical takeovers was difficult but what could not be missed was the need to highlight the need for continued focus on girls’ rights and equality. Embracing the new normal, In India we tweaked the physical takeovers to social media takeovers and roped in partners such as diplomatic Missions, corporates, media and influencers—who espouse the cause of gender equality.

Therefore, Delegation of the European Union to India, Embassy of Argentina, Australian High Commission, Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium, High Commission of Canada in India, Embassy of the Czech Republic, Royal Danish Embassy, Embassy of Finland, Embassy of France, Embassy of Israel, Embassy of Ireland, Embassy of Latvia, Embassy of Lithuania, Embassy of Mexico, Embassy of Netherlands, Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia, Embassy of Sweden and the Embassy of Switzerland; the content platform The Better India – Hindi and English; and the corporates H&M joined the social media takeovers— all came forth to not only celebrate the Day of the Girl but also give up their individual social media handles as Ambassadors/CEOs or that of their organisation in solidarity.

The reach of the campaign was further strengthened with the support of globally acclaimed sportspersons such as Tashi and Nungshi Malik, Tania Sachdev and Ria Rajeshwari Kumari. As a result 20+ girls, some of them from the remotest communities in India, took the digital world by storm reaching 9 million people organically and raising one unified voice for girls’ rights and equality.

 It is evident that together we can make a far bigger impact than we could by acting alone. The big question is—do you see yourself as flagbearer for girls’ rights and equality? The road ahead can be lonely, challenging and long drawn but the outcome is a world where girls are finally seen as equals.

Written By

Pinky Pradhan, Director – Communications and Strategic Partnerships