Before the lockdown began, Alka Tai worked as a maid in five houses close to her home in the Jhopadpatti area of Nashik, Maharashtra. Despite carrying the responsibility of financially supporting her family, Alka Tai also joined a local community-based organization, Disha Mahila Bahu-Uddeshya Sansthan (DMBS), a year ago to increase her health and financial literacy and share those messages with others.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Nashik, Alka Tai lost her job as a maid. But she soon realised she was one of the luckier people in her community: her employers had provided her with one month’s salary while many others’ employers had not. This made her resolve to help others in this time of need, and her experience supporting more than 800 vulnerable families to access social protection through DMBS’ Arogya Deepa programme (1) really helped her plan out how.
Over the last month, Alka Tai has provided essential commodities like food and safety equipment (including masks, sanitizers and soap) to the vulnerable households in her community. She even canvassed nearby localities to persuade residents to donate groceries to the effort. As DMBS is a member of the CovidActionCollab, Alka Tai has drawn on the support of their programme teams to provide free groceries and masks to 150 Families, and help 400 families access ration from the PDS so far. Among these, she also ensured that those usually marginalised were not left behind: 30 widows and 15 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) are among the beneficiaries of her work.
And Alka Tai’s impact extends much beyond her own neighbourhood: She has inspired other Wellness Facilitators at DMBS to go above and beyond in their own communities. As Sakku Bai, one of her neighbours, said, “There are many leaders in Jhopadpatti, but none came forward to support vulnerable families during this crisis, except for Alka Tai”.
Contributors: Aniket Gupta, Rhea John, Meghana Dwaraka and Shivaji