More than one in ten women in India “limited their food intake or ran out of food” during the Covid 19 lockdown n 2020. This comes to about 3.2 crore women, said a report titled “Impacts of Covid-19 on women in low-income households in India“.
The study by social impact advisory group Dalberg, details the result after a survey of nearly 15,000 women and 2,300 men across ten states of Kerala, Gujarat, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Telangana.
The assessment was held from March 24 to May 31, 2020, and the following months from June till October 2020. The report states that the Covid 19 pandemic worsened their nutritional challenges. The results are based on telephonic interviews using a combination of a 25-minute questionnaire for all respondents and 45-60 minutes in-depth qualitative interviews for select respondents.
SOME KEY FINDINGS
- About 16 percent who used menstrual pads before the Covid pandemic, had no or limited access to menstrual pads as they they could no longer afford them.
- More than one in three married women were unable to access contraceptives. This means 15 percent of them could not access contraceptives, mainly because of the concerns about accessing a healthcare facility during the pandemic.
- Women from lower-income households, Muslim as well as migrant women, and single separated/divorced women were among the hardest hit.
- Kerala, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh did well in providing them with both pads and contraceptives. Government schemes such as MGNREGA (2 crore), Jan Dhan (10 crore), and PDS (18 crore) supported them at this time. The SHGs network also continued to serve as a reliable borrowing channel for both its members and women in the community
- About 70 percent depended on PDS for food and nutrition during the crisis than other channels.
- An estimated 4.3 crore lost job and income losses One out of four women yet to meaningfully recover their paid work as of September October 2020.
- Women made up just 24 per cent of those working before the pandemic and yet, they accounted for 28 per cent of all those who lost jobs and 43 per cent of those yet to recover their paid work.
- An estimated 87 lakh women who were working before the pandemic remained out of work as of October 2020.
PRIORITY AREAS TO DEEPEN EXISTING SUPPORT
- Launch drives to enlist women on MGNREGA job cards; increase the total number of person-days to support rural women’s recovery. The government could consider increasing the total person-days offered to successfully meet demand.
- Bundle provision of pads with the PDS distribution; conduct awareness campaigns on menstrual hygiene to increase usage
- Ramp up family planning efforts to increase contraceptive access and usage especially in Bihar.
- Strengthen SHGs’ resilience by focusing on their economic recovery and market linkages via the existing Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM).
- Put in place systems for inclusion of single, separated/divorced/widowed women under the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) rollout.
- Build social assistance programs for informal workers, specifically domestic workers and casual labourers