“If any of my family members become physically sick, we will not be able to go even to the hospital. Due to Covid-19, lockdown has been imposed, so we are forced to all stay at home.” As part of our autumn Don’t Stop Now! Appeal, read about one young girl’s experience of Lockdown in India and how our partner Karunalaya are trying to help.” Amos’ On Her Terms Lead Karin Joseph writes.
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Nandini is 15. She lives in a shelter for homeless families — with her three older brothers and her mum and dad. They’ve lived in this shelter for many years, after being brought there by the government from where they were living on the streets; but their allotted space to live is very small so they can’t be comfortable.
“During this pandemic, my parents are not able to buy the household materials needed,” explains Nandini, talking about the new realities of her life since COVID-19 arrived. “If any of my family members become physically sick, we will not be able to go even to the hospital. Due to COVID-19, lockdown has been imposed, so we are forced to all stay at home. Since my whole family is staying at home, the essential things soon run out.”
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Nandini’s family soon didn’t have enough resources to support themselves. Both her parents worked before the pandemic, but lockdown abruptly put them both out of a job. “My father pledged our household items to buy essential supplies for the family,” said Nandini.
Near to where Nandini lives, there is a small basket factory. Due to Covid-19 and the lack of family income, Nandini had to start working there each day. “While working in that factory, many times I’d get hurt because of the large machinery but I’d think of the difficulties of me and my family members.” She worked there for a month, earned £40, and handed over the money she made to her family.
Nandini’s family soon didn’t have enough resources to support themselves. Both her parents worked before the pandemic, but lockdown abruptly put them both out of a job.
The strain on families like Nandini’s due to Covid-19 and India’s ongoing lockdown is immense. Her father started to drink heavily and cause problems and fights in the home. “When my father creates problems like this, it makes me angry; I feel like just going away from home.” These strains take a toll on the mental health of girls like Nandini. “I feel depressed and alone. If it was possible, I would go to school and share my feelings with my friends. There’s no one in my house with whom I could share my feelings and problems.”
But Karunalaya’s outreach workers kept in touch with Nandini and other girls like her throughout Chennai’s lockdown. During its strictest phase, Karunalaya staff contacted families via mobile phones. “They taught us good habits like wearing the safety mask and washing hands regularly. Then, they inquired about our health and asked whether any of our neighbours are affected with Coronavirus.”
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Karunalaya also helped families deal with the lack of essential supplies. “When we were struggling,” said Nandini, “they helped us by providing relief materials like grocery items needed for a month. We ate good food due to Karunalaya’s supplies. If that support was not given, we would have suffered without food. This helped reduce my parents’ burden.”
Nandini explains how Karunalaya has always worked alongside them to listen and find solutions together. “We have a good relationship with Karunalaya. They always help us to find the correct solution to our problems. If I share my problems with my neighbourhood, they would make fun of us. Instead, if I share my problem with Karunalaya, they guide us how to face the problems and how to solve them.”
Karunalaya also helped families deal with the lack of essential supplies. “When we were struggling,” said Nandini, “they helped us by providing relief materials like grocery items needed for a month. We ate good food due to Karunalaya’s supplies.
This approach has had a big impact on Nandini and other girls she knows. “If Karunalaya was not among us, I wouldn’t have solved all the problems, the other girls and I would have not gained knowledge about child abuse and how to react to it. I learnt from Karunalaya what challenges women are facing and how to face it. If Karunalaya was not among us, I would not know about many necessary things for my life.”
For now, Nandini’s biggest preoccupation is with school re-starting. Her education is her main priority. “Since my parents are without a job, I can’t pay my school fees. I don’t know what to do, my higher secondary studies are a big challenge for me”.
Karunalaya are helping as many girls as they can with their school fees, so that they do not miss out on any more education, or are forced to work in factories like Nandini had to, to support their family income.
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Coronavirus is threatening the progress of young women and girls like Sonia. Please continue to give them your support. Please click here to give to our Don’t Stop Now! Appeal.