SHGs have taken several steps such as raising awareness about hygiene practices, distributing food as well as producing and distributing masks

Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) of rural India have been able to reach 7.2 crore rural households in the initial days of COVID-19 as part of their awareness drive. As per an article published in The Print, SHGs promoted under National Rural Livelihoods Mission under the Ministry of Rural Development emerged as frontline workers in fight against the pandemic.

The article written by Secretary (Rural Development), Ministry of Rural Development Nagendra Nath Sinha says these SHGs have taken several steps such as raising awareness about hygiene practices, distributing food as well as producing and distributing masks, however, they continue to remain unsung heroes.

Sinha writes that in order to educate the rural households about personal hygiene including hand washing and behavioural change to maintain social distancing, these SHGs took a number of measures. The information was disseminated on a regular basis on the basis of WhatsApp groups. Several training programmes were also held via video conferencing. Interestingly, their latest programme reached around 5 lakh community-level workers directly and to over 5 crores indirectly, Sinha writes in his article for The Print.

As far as the food supply is concerned, the food supply chain saw a major halt during the lockdown making several households yearn for food. Then, these SHGs came forward to distribute the food among them.

Sinha writes that the Self-Help groups used the Vulnerability Reduction Fund (VRF for preparing food kits, which contained staples, cooking oil and personal hygiene products which were then distributed among those who needed them the most.

According to the data mentioned by the official, many community kitchens have also been opened by these groups to provide food. The data suggests that till 24 July, around 12,000 community kitchens were opened across 75 districts of Jharkhand, Kerala and Odisha. Together they provided a total of 6 crore meals.

Apart from that, these SHGs have also undertaken a constant production of masks and protective gear on a daily basis, Sinha writes further. The article says that on the basis of suggestions given by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, these SHGs have been able to provide more than 22 crore masks till July 24.

These masks have been provided by around 3 lakh women members of over 50,000 SHGs. A total of 35 lakh protective gears have also been produced by over 6000 SHGs. Similarly, a total of 4.8 lakh litres of sanitizer has also been produced. Apart from that, these SHGs have also been helping rural households financially, the article says.

Sinha says that the efforts of these SHGs go unrecognised and they remain the unsung heroes which needs to change.

Read the full report in The Print