In one of the workshops on the empowerment of women, organised by LedBy, a unique leadership incubator for Indian Muslim women, a young girl raised her hand to ask for work. She did not want charity from anyone in the panel present. After losing the sole breadwinner in the family, her father to Covid, she wanted to support her mother and two sisters by earning an income.
This was one of the moments when the founder of Lebdy, Dr Ruha Shadab realised they have to step in to provide help and support to Indian Muslim women who are left to deal with trauma, grief and the reality of daily life after losing the breadwinner.
With this they started "Stipend for Indian Muslim Women affected by Covid", it is for those who have lost an earning member in their family due to Covid, with a promise to support their income. All that the affected has to do is email their story on how Covid has impacted their life. The company letter showing you have secured or started an internship/job with salary figure, even if, Rs 0 along with the duration of employment. After the verification, the applicant will be supported with up to Rs 10,000 per month for a maximum of three months.
Dr Ruha Shadab said, "India needs to keep building and our professional development cannot be stunted due to the current circumstances. We need to keep building because as hard as our present is, we have to start building our future. Together."
One way was to encourage employment, "So, through encouraging employment and providing financial support, we're confident that women will rebuild their lives and also contribute to the growth of the country. It was important to ensure the people get relevant work experience without worrying about the money," she added.
The pandemic must not stunt the professional acumen and potential, in her opinion. Many stories inspired her to take this up, apart from the girl in Aligarh who volunteered to earn money through work rather than get charity, Shadab read about the initiative for Covid Widows, a volunteer-based organisation that started on May 11, 2021, to help widows find work. But it has evolved and expanded its target group now.
"Our initiative started on those lines to help Covid widows, but within two-three days of our existence young girls approached for work, those who had lost their fathers. We then expanded and started basing our decisions on the gravity of the cases present in front of us," said Karan Parvesh Singh, media volunteer, of Covid Women Help initiative. He is a digital marketing professional.
They have 1,000 applications and 7,000 volunteers. So far 50 candidates have been matched with their potential employers.
This initiative started to help women who lost their partners due to the Covid crisis by Yudhvir Mor, who is the country manager and VP, Zuora along with his friends and former colleagues. It is a volunteer and society-driven initiative.
The communication team of the new support group informed in an email "Our working model is very simple. Covid Women Help initiative is 100% volunteer and society-driven. We work based on a non-financial model and don't accept donations or sponsorship. Instead, we rely on the individual volunteers and their expertise to help these women."
In this initiative, they have collaborated with organisations with a strong corporate social responsibility policy. "We get in touch with the organisations that can help the affected women find career opportunities and personal growth," said Singh.
To get help from the COVID Women Help initiative, the affected has to fill an application form, which is followed by evaluation, skill mapping and then the applicant is connected to the assistant, who will further match the candidate with potential employers. The volunteers and coaches prepare the candidates for interviews and help in writing the resume. They are encouraged to strengthen their Linkedin profiles.
"We aim to make it less cumbersome for those suffering from a loss and help them with an opportunity to start their careers and gain financial independence, as soon as possible," said Singh.
The people involved in the initiatives did not want to limit their responses to the crisis to "sympathy" or "empathy", "there was a need to find the solution," said Singh, and added, "Hardship had created a gap, we had to fill that with work opportunities."
There is a lot of hurry to find work after the loss, and the volunteers are working on this initiative along with their work responsibilities. The volunteers give two to three hours to finding work for the affected, "There is a hurry and rush to find work after the loss, but these things are procedural and take time," said Singh.