India has been grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. Multiple lockdowns in the country resulted in restricted mobility, loss of livelihoods, and an acute shortage of essential goods for many families. Our counsellors moved to online platforms to provide counselling to survivors and our PeaceMakers – local community women trained in counselling and assisting survivors of domestic violence – were proactive in maintaining contact with their community members and assisting whoever required help. (To know more about Operation PeaceMaker, click here).
Our PeaceMakers are playing an indispensable role in providing support to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of our PeaceMakers have years of training with us which encourages them to go above and beyond their roles. Before My Choices Foundation started COVID- 19 relief work in 2020, two of our PeaceMakers – Anees and Shah Jahan helped the community members by distributing grains, cooked food and providing money to people in need. The PeaceMaker programme aims to empower women in the community and the fact that Anees and Shah Jahan conducted these activities on their own, is a testament to the training we conduct for PeaceMakers. (To read more about our PeaceMakers and their journey of becoming a PeaceMaker, click here)
During the pandemic, PeaceMakers were proactive in leveraging their position in the community to assist people in need. Through their assistance, we identified women and families who required help and assisted the PeaceMakers to essential resources were provided. They contacted all our beneficiaries to identify women who required assistance, pregnant women who were unable to access necessities or families infected with COVID-19 struggling for essential supplies. Our PeaceMaker coordinated with local authorities and the My Choices Foundation team to ensure help was provided. We assisted in the form of distribution of ration, providing monetary assistance through our Lotus Fund and a haven through our Safe Home.
In 2020, by the end of the first wave, our PeaceMakers started entering the field with full precautions to conduct door-to-door awareness about domestic violence and our helpline service. Some of our PeaceMakers who are also ASHA Workers (primary health care workers) and Anganwadi (community creche’) Teachers played a crucial role in reaching out to women in the community. While everyone’s movement was limited during the pandemic, this team was still active in the community as they are government-appointed volunteers who provide invaluable aid to the communities. ASHA workers and Anganwadi workers (government-led initiative) helped many domestic violence victims to get the necessary help, be it assistance with Police, Legal, medicines and food essentials. Distressed women who still reach out to the Police are directed to our counselling centres for assistance.
Our PeaceMakers play a vital role in our ability to reach the vulnerable communities in Hyderabad and Warangal. To help them continue their great work, we conduct drives to provide them with safety kits which include – N95 Masks, surgical masks, gloves, face shields and sanitisers. We distributed 40 safety kits among our 40 PeaceMakers who are actively involved in creating meaningful changes in the lives of women, children and families. Armed with the safety kit, the PeaceMakers are entering the field safely and interacting with the community members to create awareness about domestic violence and our counselling and helpline services.