How these women are doing their bit in the battle against coronavirus

From making face masks to rescuing stranded Indians abroad, these women’s efforts are helping others during this coronavirus pandemic.
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The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 167 countries around the world and halted normal life for millions of people. According to Johns Hopkins University, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 1.27 million people and killed over 69,000 worldwide. In India, the cases have surged to over 4,000 with 109 deaths reported so far. 

In this time of crisis, people from all walks of life have come forward to help fight the pandemic. From making face masks to providing food and monetary assistance, here is a list of women who are helping in their own significant ways during this global pandemic.

Suhani Mohan

Suhani Mohan, co-founder of Saral Designs

Co-founder of sanitary pads startup Saral Designs, Suhani Mohan reached out to Mahindra Group to convert their pad manufacturing machine to make masks to help contain the spread of coronavirus. 

Suhani, an IIT-Bombay graduate, and her co-founder Kartik Mehta wanted to aid in producing masks as they realised the urgent need for protection equipment, especially for doctors and nurses dealing with the pandemic. They decided to help by converting their machines as the technology used to make sanitary napkins and masks are similar. 

With the help of the automotive team of Mahindra Group, they are producing 3-ply masks at their Kandivali plant.

“Currently, the masks are being distributed via Mahindra Group’s CSR wing to government hospitals, police and everyone who has to be on the field,” Suhani told HerStory.

The company is trying to ramp up production to produce 10,000 masks each day in the next eight to 10 days and distribute them to the general public as well. 

Swati Raval 

Image courtesy: Vishnu Som Twitter

Air India pilot Swati Raval flew to the Italian capital Rome, an epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic to rescue 263 stranded Indians, mostly students.  The mother of a five-year-old and commander of Air India 777 piloted the Boeing 777 on March 22, 2020, along with Captain Raja Chouhan to become the first woman civilian pilot to command a rescue mission during the coronavirus situation. 

Swati and the Air India crew received immense praise for their courageous efforts, including from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

Swati has been a pilot for over 15 years. She wanted to be a fighter pilot but chose to be a commercial pilot as the Indian Air Force did not allow women to fly fighter planes. She made headlines earlier in March when she was part of Air India’s all-women crew that operated the 14-hour long Mumbai to New York flight on March 8 to commemorate International Women’s Day.

Hima Das

Hima Das, India's star sprinter

India’s star athlete Hima Das came forward to provide financial assistance to the Assam government even before the first case was reported in the state. She has donated a month’s salary to the state government to help fight the pandemic. Assam has recorded 26 cases until 5 April. 

She donated the money to the state government’s Arogya Nidhi account. She also urged fellow citizens to come together to help the cause. She wrote on Twitter, "Friends, it's high time to stand together & support people who need us. I am contributing 1 month of my salary to Assam Govt. in Assam Arogya Nidhi Account made to safeguard the health of people in the wake of Covid-19. @narendramodi @sarbanandsonwal @KirenRijiju @himantabiswa.”

This is the second time she has come to her state’s aid. In July 2019, she donated half a month’s salary when the state was ravaged by floods, which affected over 45,000 people. 

Women’s SHGs in Chhattisgarh 

Due to the rise in demand for masks and hand sanitisers during the pandemic, 853 women’s self-help groups (SHGs) in Chhattisgarh are helping produce these items at affordable prices. 

Around 2,516 women from 853 SHGs associated with the Chhattisgarh State Rural Livelihood Mission (CSRLM) have produced around 5.13 lakh masks till April 1. The women are producing three-layered washable fabric masks as per World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. These masks have been supplied to the health department, municipal corporation, and other government departments and are also sold in open markets at Rs 20 to Rs 25 each. 

Twenty-three SHGs in nine districts of the state are also producing sanitisers. In some districts SHGs are also making fabric hand gloves to be provided to traffic police. The manufacturing of these gloves is also being expanded to help more people.  

Women from SHGs, particularly from rural areas, are also going around the villages and creating awareness about COVID- 19 through various means, wall grafitti.

Deepa Malik and Devika Malik

Paralympic merdallist Devika Malik and her daughter, Devika Malik

India’s first and only woman Paralympic medallist Deepa Malik and her daughter Devika Malik have launched an initiative called ‘Happy Janta Kitchen’ to provide cooked meals to daily-wage labourers affected by the lockdown. 

They started with the initiative in Kanpur and are planning to help daily-wagers in Noida and Amethi as well. With the help of authorities in Kanpur, they were able to distribute over 100 packets of food each day. They are partnering with NGOs like Shiv Shakti Kripa Foundation to help daily wage and essential workers during the lockdown. Through their NGO Wheeling Happiness, they are in the process of recruiting more ground workers and volunteers to expand their operations to more cities.

The Padma Shri recipient has also donated Rs 5.70 lakh earned as corporate fees from various sessions addressed by her towards the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, much before the PM-CARES Fund was announced. 

(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)