COVID-19: India’s churches help women achieve economic independence
LWF supports women seeking safety and income
(LWI) - As tailoring requests from the Lutheran congregation in the Chindwara region of India began to pour in, other women took notice of the formerly impoverished mother of five daughters, now, an independent shop owner able to provide for her children.
Governments around the world implemented lockdowns and strong social distancing interventions to reduce the spread of coronavirus at the start of the pandemic. India began its own nationwide lockdown early in the pandemic, limiting the movement of 1.3 billion people.
Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders used to control the spread of the virus, also created stressful psychological and economic consequences.
Jaya*, a trained tailor who was abandoned by her abusive husband and father-in-law at the height of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in India, received a sewing machine from the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India (UELCI) at the beginning of the year and became an inspiration to other women in her community who might be experiencing a similar crisis.
Grateful to the women’s desk of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Madhya Pradesh, a member church of the UELCI, Jaya said, “I was helpless and had no equipment to begin earning for myself, but today I am working from home with the sewing machine and can feed my children.”
A seamstress works at a sewing machine. Photo: UELCI
Lunch shop provides income
Sagara* lives in a village in the Odisha State near the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chotanagpur and Assam (GELC) with her husband and two children. Sagara’s husband lost his job during the pandemic and depended on Sagara to support the family outside of the home as a day laborer.
However, she was unable to find work in that sector as the rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths rapidly grew nationwide.
According to the “Odisha State COVID-19 Portal,” there are currently 983,523 cases of people infected with COVID-19 and 6,236 people have died from the disease in Odisha State.
A survey compiling the experiences of residents in rural Odisha State " Experience of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Rural Odisha, India” noted that 31 percent of heads of households in Odisha reported having lost work due to coronavirus or the lockdown.
My tiffin shop has become extremely popular, and it continues to provide an income for me. I am proud to also be a role model for the other women who want to earn and to live in peace.
Many of the respondents normally worked as day laborers and migrant workers, a group affected hardest economically by the stay-at-home measures.
“My tiffin [a traditional light lunch and tea] shop has become extremely popular, and it continues to provide an income for me. I am proud to also be a role model for the other women who want to earn and to live in peace.”
Sagara said she was grateful for the help from the GELC during such a difficult time. “I received help to open a small shop selling tiffin from the GELC women’s network.”
A new shop owner stands near her cooking supplies. Photo: UELCI
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is supporting its member churches in India to continue offering assistance through the communion’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund (RRF). The RRF is now in its third phase of distribution. Churches that apply for funding receive up to EUR 10,000 to assist communities with economic recovery.
With the RRF, 35 women living in poverty and food insecurity in UELCI member church areas have regained their livelihoods disturbed by the economic challenges and gender-based violence worsened by COVID-19.
“I received the support from the UELCI and today I am earning daily, selling tiffin every morning and evening in the street. My children are safe and are now continuing their education," Sagara said.
*All Names have been changed to protect the people concerned.
The LWF launched the LWF COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund in April 2020, with the goal to support the communion’s member churches, particularly the most vulnerable ones that require urgent assistance during the global health emergency. The fund is supported by LWF’s member churches and partners around the world.