Impact of Covid pandemic on Manipuri women
Naorem Sujata Devi and Sonia Meitram
When the entire Nation was hit by the pandemic and the lockdown was imposed, people were asked to stay at home but they were not told how to deal with the issue. Knowingly and unknowingly all of us were getting affected by the sudden lockdown. The more difficult part in dealing a pandemic is the fear and panic it brings along with the virus.
The crisis of food shortages rose and economic crisis followed. Whatever the problem it may be, we come to know it was/is never gender neutral. Pandemic or no-pandemic it is the women that are affected the most. As we can see from the reports of most of the organizations and health departments COVID-19 issue will have a long-lasting effect to all of us socially, culturally, economically, politically etc.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Wuhan, China in December-2019 more than 34,345,342 people have been affected, out of which more than 23,890,360 have recovered and with a death toll of 1,023,817 all over the worl (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronavirus_disease_2019). The first case of the Coronavirus pandemic in India was reported on 30th January 2020. India currently has the largest number of confirmed cases in Asia with 6,394,068 cases out of which 5,352,078 recovered and a death toll of over one lakh till date (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic_in_India).
According to the UN’s report on the Impact of COVID-19 on Women, it strongly suggested the need for a revision in policies in view of this pandemic since inequalities have been making all of us more vulnerable to the impact of any crisis be it COVID-19 or any other.
It also suggested rebuilding a more equal, more inclusive economy, focusing on the lives and futures of women and girls in terms of the socio-economic plans, etc. by understanding the gender impacts of this pandemic since many reports claimed that it is the women and children who will be severely affected by the pandemic (UN, Policy Brief, 2020).
In many countries like United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, China, India etc., there are reports on increasing number of cases of domestic violence during the lockdown.
The National Commission for Women, India has also received an increase in the number of complaints of domestic violence. It is also expected that there might be many more unreported cases.
Domestic violence not only affects the victim physically but it will lead to lifelong mental health problems of the women.
In order to avoid the rise in such cases, the Government and NGOs can start campaigns to promote awareness about domestic violence, which is expected to be rising, and can impart the information of where to file the complaints.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Manipur on 24th March 2020. First, the lockdown was imposed for 14-days, and it has affected every section of the society. It affected the daily wage earners at large.
In Manipur, there are many women who are the lone bread earner of their family. When the lockdown started, they do understand that it’s the need of the hour but a big question arises when it begins to extend. Which is better : die due the virus or due to starvation ?
We came across a news report of Laibi Oinam, a mother of two and a lady auto-driver who is the sole bread-earner of the family, leaving behind the fears of being infected by the virus and many other attacks, volunteered and drove for eight long hours, over 100 km away from the capital city Imphal to drop home a recovered COVID-19 patient when the ambulance service refused.
In recognition of her human act and service, the Chief Minister handed over a cash award of Rs 1,10,000/- sponsored by some entrepreneurs of the State and by Manipuri expatriates to Laibi (ndtv.com June 11, 2020).
An online survey was conducted to know the condition of Manipuri women during this pandemic. More than 100 women from urban, rural and hill areas responded to the survey.
And from the online survey we came to know that most of the women despite of their qualification are unemployed. Many of them were working in private firms and were earning their livelihood through small-scale business. But the sudden imposition of the lockdown affected them hugely. Majority of them responded that they opted for another business to sustain their financial independence.
The sudden lockdown has in fact affected every section of the society despite of one’s economic or social status. But the womenfolk are getting affected in every arena let it be economic or psychological. We all know that women are the primary care provider in a family. Whenever any crisis arises it is the women who have to stay focused both inside the home and outside.
Despite losing their financial independence during this pandemic, women are trying their best to balance both inside and outside. From the survey it has come to notice that the workload has become double as the family members are staying at home and the demand for food or care has increased. There are also responses of men helping the women in doing the household chores during this pandemic. However, it is same for many men whether there is pandemic or no-pandemic. They still think that it is the sole responsibility of the women to do the household works. It shows the genderization of household work. It in turn increases their stress level and they do not have any portal or source to let out and decrease their stress. In such cases, the role of counsellor who provides psychological support becomes important.
Those who are well-trained in this field can help them in dealing with the psychological impact of the pandemic. There are many women who have started small scale business to sustain their livelihood during this pandemic. But they do not have access to the right platform which will let them earn income. In addition to providing psychological support to the women, the counsellor can also help them in searching for the platform to earn money.
COVID-19 or economic crisis, food crisis or war, it is the women that is always at the receiving end. When the pandemic broke out people were asked to stay strictly at home and not to come out. It has affected all section of the society. It makes women lose their business, their financial independence and to become dependent again upon their partners and parents.
The pandemic surely doubles their daily household works but many of the women perceive this time as a boon in disguise. It gives them ample of ‘me time’. They got time to learn those activities which they always wanted to do but never got the chance. But we really need an intervention of making people aware of the basic things that one can do despite of one’s gender identity.
The lockdown is indeed a boon-in-disguise. It surely improves the condition of nature. It decreases pollution. People are taking extra care of their hygiene like washing hands frequently. It also taught people to use the available resources wisely. And it also taught us that all those functions, rituals or celebration of festivals that one used to observe pre-pandemic are not necessary.
All of us have started considering the pros and cons of ‘what is needed’ and ‘what is not needed’. We are more able to differentiate between the ‘need’ and the ‘want’. We think it is a good lesson for all of us despite all the hardships.