[Year in Review] Meet these Indian women who used social media to drive change and social impact
The reach and influence of social media can change the course of a society, and its impact became especially visible in the most unprecedented of times - the pandemic.
At a time when social distancing forced people to stay put indoors, platforms like Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp covered the distance and connected people and organisations with the right.
And now, several months after the pandemic outbreak, the age of social media influencers is upon us, as they go about not only impressing, but impacting society, as well as they, go about tackling social taboos with science and logic.
From college students to working professionals, HerStory presents five women who have harnessed social media tools to help people across India.
In April 2021, when COVID-19 cases peaked during the second wave in India, twenty-year-old Arpita Chowdhury, an undergraduate student at Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi, was quick to leverage social media platforms to start the #LetsFightCovidTogether initiative.
Arpita saw the pandemic’s direct impact on students from underprivileged and tribal backgrounds. With the help of her mother and uncle, and through her NGO Jazbaat Foundation, she helped a few Delhi-based students to remain in the capital and continue their studies by facilitating their accommodation, internet access and laptops with the #educationforall initiative. Arpita and several other volunteers are offering coaching classes and coordinating donations in cash and kind to the students, making way for them to appear for board exams and competitive JEE tests during the pandemic.
Arpita – recognised as COVID Sheroes by Twitter India – then maintained a live database of information around resources including hospital beds, oxygen supplies, medical aid, among others. Along with her friends Aarushi Raj and Shivani Singhal who are also college students, they verified the information coming their way and helped more than a thousand people.
Tanaya Narendra, better known as Dr Cuterus on Instagram, offers bite-sized information on sexual health, one post at a time. An oxford trained medical professional and firm believer in the importance of sexual well-being for overall health, she talks about everything from period pain, PCOS/PCOD, sex, reproductive health for both men and women, menstrual health, hysterectomy, among others. At the peak of COVID-19, she used her social media presence with over 500,000 followers to share emergency needs including medical beds and oxygen, and connected them with the right resources.
The influencer is also vocal about body positivity, and calls out body and fat shaming instances to sensitise the public on their social interactions.
Opening up on social media apps was not unusual for many Indians in the thick of the brutal second wave of COVID-19 earlier this year. When 21-year-old Aanya Wig felt helpless and anxious seeing this, she sprang into action, and created a WhatsApp group titled Covid Fighters (India) along with Arnab Biswas.
“There was a need because there were hundreds of numbers with no indication of availability and people black marketing the medical needs,” she said in an interaction with actor Ananya Pandey on her digital social responsibility page, So Positive.
She also circulated a spreadsheet listing all the available resources like hospital beds, oxygen support, ambulances, and food and verified their availability every few hours with the help of volunteers. With about 500 volunteers, they personally verified all the information available on the internet between 9 am to 12 noon, and then attended to distress and SOS calls.
She is now engaged in other social activities as the founder of Girl Up Rise and a member of Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WICCI) Anti Sexual Harassment Council.
Seema Mishra is well known for her social impact work and was awarded the Influencer of Ghaziabad title by Womennovator. The 47-year-old registrar and academic Head at ICR ILAM group mentors various startups and founded Develop India Foundation, an NGO working towards education and environmental causes.
When COVID-19 struck, Seema teamed up with a group of volunteers to help migrants on their arduous journey to home during the initial nationwide lockdown. She has also leveraged her social media network to collate food, hospital beds, and other medical resources.
To ensure that the coronavirus spread is controlled, Seema is raising vaccine awareness to quell people’s hesitancy towards taking the jab.
Based in Bengaluru, Maggie Inbamuthiah is passionate about environment, diversity and inclusion, and the intersection of technology and society.
During the COVID-19 crisis in India, she led a team of volunteers in South Bangalore to address more than 40 SOS calls every day. Maggie and the team took to social media to amplify the requests for hospital beds, access to EMCO machines, and ensured pregnant women sending requests found appropriate medical help. She was recognised by Twitter India as COVID Sheroes.
Maggie, who is also an ardent supporter of women in STEM, is the founder of Mandram, an NGO that promotes discourses in regional languages and Happifeet, a venture that connects people with nature.
Edited by Anju Narayanan