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The efforts of front line workers during a crisis such as COVID-19 often go underappreciated. Read further for an interview of frontline health workers from Bihar who were felicitated as “Corona-warriors”.
A select gathering of handful people, comprising of Ward Leaders & Community Members, keeping the norms of physical distance intact, shower flower petals along with round of applause combined with drubbing of plates & spoon for “Thaali Taali” in welcoming the ASHA, Aanganwadi Worker and ANM as real “Corona Warrior”
The strictness of Lockdown is easing down in the Country with Government trying to kick-start the economy in a phased manner, starting with “Unlock 1.0”. Sectors such as Hospitality, Malls, etc, are gearing up to resume services, while imposing all preventive measures as we step into the new normal.
As we begin this transition into a new phase of the covid-19 pandemic, let’s look back at the onset of this health crisis. The Bihar government had mobilized its large army of frontline health workers (FLWs) like ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activists), AWWs (Aanganwaadi Workers) and Auxiliary Nurse Midwifery (ANMs) to tackle this mammoth onslaught.
These frontline workers are an important connecting link between the community and the public health care system in rural areas of Bihar. During lockdown, when citizens were restricted from stepping outside of their homes, these FLWs played a very crucial role and made it possible to fight a war against COVID-19 as “CORONA WARRIORS”.
Under the aegis of “Champion” initiative of “Centre for Catalyzing Change”, covering 10 districts of Bihar and mentoring over two thousand elected women representatives from Panchayats, these Frontline Health Workers are being felicitated as “Corona Warriors” in their respective wards for their fearless war against COVID-19 pandemic.
So far, FLWs in numbers exceeding 300 have been felicitated under this initiative by more than 200 elected women leaders of Panchayat along with the community members.
From the perspective of our “Corona Warriors”, amid the pandemic, adjusting to the new working conditions and resuming services with all preventive measures has been a different experience for different FLWs.
I had the pleasure of speaking to a few of these workers, who have been felicitated by the elected women leaders.
“I Got energy and happiness from the respect and felicitation bestowed upon me by community and Ward leader” sata Geeta Devi.
For Geeta who was posted as ANM in “Sansa” panchayat of Aurangabad district in Bihar, the experience of being felicitated by Ward leader, Pinki Devi and community members was overwhelming.
She says, “Even though I have been working as an ANM for last 5 years, I feel a huge sense of responsibility on my shoulders during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
She adds, “I had started working against the whims and desires of my husband. However, other family members supported me in this endeavour. It is quite a new and overwhelming experience to receive this kind of honour for your hard work and efforts which are seldom recognized and appreciated otherwise.”
Adding on, she explains “Before the pandemic, working style of the frontline health workers was quite different. Generally, we used to form groups of women who would sit down with the community and make them aware about the health issues and provide services. But as COVID-19 became the part of our life, we had to be alert and mindful while providing services during the Aarogya Diwas (As from 8th of May, 2020 Government has resumed the services under Aarogya Diwas) and other health services at the community level.”
“Though monetary wise, the compensation is low as there is less or no fixed monthly income, as far as my children are concerned, I have become their Role Model” – Karuna Sinha, ASHA, Banjari panchayat, Rohtas, Sasaram, Bihar.
Karuna, who is an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) believes that social work especially related to health care gives her satisfaction and motivation to work more for the community, especially for women and children.
She attributes her experience to the irony, that in her profession, although there is no certainty about the monetary compensation, the threat of getting infected always looms.
She explains “I am a graduate and have computer skills but like other parents of our society, mine were also focused on girls’ marriages rather than thinking of their career. I am thankful to my husband who supported me in my professional pursuit.”
Further she shares, “When I reached my ward, Ward Member Rasulan Bibi, along with community women maintaining social distancing, started showering flower petals and using their plates and spoons as drums. They took my aarti and thanked me for my work, which I have sincerely done even during the pandemic.”
“I felt really proud of myself and in the process, have made my family proud too. In the past, I have also been awarded by the health department for my efforts in contributing to male sterilization, but the felicitation bestowed upon me by the Ward leaders and the community was something different and unexpected” says Karuna.
“Aanganwaadi workers are never considered an important contributor in the society in spite of all our efforts. But the felicitation has motivated us and made us feel important.” says Sunita Devi.
According to Sunita, who works as an Aanganwaadi worker in Rohtas district, “A select gathering of seven people maintaining physical distance, the residents, handful of community members and the Ward leader showered flower petals on me to welcome me. Later, they took my aarti and also presented me with some homemade sweets, as the present circumstances did not permit for other arrangements.”
Sunita adds “My children felt very happy when they watched the recording of my felicitation. Finally my hard is work is paying off and people have acknowledged it, that is more than anything in return”.
Sunita says, “Earlier I used to visit AWC and do my work but no one from the community ever noticed my efforts. But the felicitation from Ward member and the community made me realise my importance and the relevance of services I provide to them. I wanted to be a teacher but worked as ASHA for few years. When there was vacancy for the AWW, I tried my best to get it so that I could fulfil my dream of teaching.”
She explains, “Ward leaders were not so aware about the services provided at the AWC and their roles and responsibilities towards it. They only used to visit the AWC during social audits. But now, the woman ward leader is providing support in the events and services of AWC and also appreciating our work.”
These myriad experiences show us the different perspectives of our true “Corona Warriors” or FLWs who have defied all odds to work and serve the community.
Their work is often undermined and goes unappreciated by higher officials, departments,the community that they serve and sometimes even their own family. However, during a pandemic their resolve and commitment cannot go unnoticed.
Felicitation of these FLWs by the elected women leaders is a small step towards making them feel honoured and important especially in terms of easy access of health and nutrition services in rural India.
Image credit: BANITAtour
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