File photo of women workers conducting a health survey in Bhadrak, Odisha. (Source: Twitter @PIBBhubaneswar)

Women’s bigger role in the healthcare sector in India makes them the frontline staff in the ongoing war against COVID-19. However, this also exposes them to the deadly virus in a multitude of ways, according to a report by Fortune India.

Indian self-help groups (SHGs), dominated by women, have contributed towards the production of masks, sanitisers and protective gear to meet the burgeoning demands of the health sector. In April alone, the women produced over 19 million masks and 100,000 litres of sanitiser across India, the report said.

The Fortune India report pointed out how the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission, which was established under the Ministry of Rural Development 15 years ago, has employed 69 million women in about 7 million SHGs.

This, the report said, has proven to be an invaluable resource in tough times like the present, at providing livelihoods to poor rural women.

The government has acknowledged the fact that these SHGs have contributed in addressing economic and social needs that have emerged at the community level during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Moreover, the SHGs are also working on issues like social distancing, use of masks, quarantine and psycho-social issues of migrants, care of elderly population, mental health and well-being. The report said they have also provided rations and cooked food for the poor and vulnerable families using the Vulnerability Reduction Fund or with support of the respective state governments.

According to the report, the women create awareness in the local communities through telephone calls, wall writings, pamphlets and social media.

Read the complete report in Fortune India