Covid-19 and Women at the Margins
Pratiksha Sarika Bara
The above illustration is an endeavour to depict the impact of COVID19 on the condition of Adivasi and Dalit women who stand at the margins of the Indian society and the failure of the ‘one size fits all’ strategy used to tackle this issue. Although the COVID19 pandemic has amplified gender discrimination globally, in developing countries like India its impact increases manifolds. Furthermore, the impact was most severely felt by the Adivasi and Dalit women not only due to their socio-economic status but also because the ‘one size fits all’ policy did not recognize their differential needs arising out of their social position. The unorganized sector is dominated by the women from these socio-economically and politically oppressed communities, who work on minimal wages under extreme conditions without any economic stability or security. The unorganized sector was harshly hit due to this health crisis and the proportion of Indian women who lost their jobs was much more than that of men as contractual work mostly engages women especially from the Adivasi and Dalit communities. A large number of these women belong to the labour class who had migrated to different parts of India to work as labourers, domestic workers, agricultural labourers etc. The lockdown imposed due to COVID19 had rendered them jobless and homeless. Without work or any place to stay and without travelling facilities, numerous migrant workers began journeying towards their homes on foot. Adivasi and Dalit women who are heavily employed as domestic and sex workers were drastically affected during the lockdown. The lockdown has also forced many of these women to now work at even lower wages, as the already poor condition of the Indian economy has worsened since the pandemic. The increase in the unavailability of nutrition for the Adivasi and Dalit women due to slacked employment opportunities, further decriment of wages, job loss, etc has worsened their physical, mental and reproductive health. These women who were already at the margins of the Indian society have now been pushed further back.