Q: During the past several months, you have been involved with pandemic-related work. Can you give a brief overview of what your pandemic and non-pandemic duties were?
Anganwadi Worker: In March-April 2020 my main task was to conduct door-to-door surveys and check people for COVID-19 symptoms. I had my helper with me during this time who would accompany me to all the houses.
When I went to these houses, I also used my time to make people aware about the things they should do, the protocols they should follow, how they should practice social distancing, and so on.
After May 2020, when the lockdown restrictions eased a bit, I had to resume my other tasks of teaching children, doing immunisations, and taking weights of pregnant women.
Throughout this time, there was a lot of online work. I had to send in reports online, check for updates on apps like Aarogya Setu. I also had to be available on WhatsApp to give updates to my supervisor.
Q: What was your relationship with other Frontline Workers (Auxiliary Nurse Midwives or ANMs, other Anganwadi Workers,and ASHAs) or other Corona Warriors in your area post the pandemic? For instance, how did you coordinate with each other?
Anganwadi Worker: I only had to coordinate with ASHA workers. I don’t think I ever talked to ANMs in my village. I only saw them when there weren’t enough of us and we would need someone to fill in for a day or so.
However, ASHAs and I worked very closely. Even before COVID-19 they would be present at the centre where we teach children and would help us with teaching and managing. During COVID-19, this coordination specifically increased. We were not only coordinating for surveys but were also aware of the increase in workload, and so all of us were always ready to help each other.
Whenever someone was sick, for instance, either ASHAs or one of us would file the report for each other, or take the sick person’s share of households to be covered and do their surveys as well. This kind of coordination really helped in managing both pandemic and non-pandemic work.
Q: Did you receive any support from your immediate supervisor to carry out these activities?
Anganwadi Worker: My supervisors were always very supportive. If we made a mistake they would scold us, but other than that, there were never any punishments or penalties for doing our work incorrectly. They always encouraged us to keep asking questions.
They also provided us with sanitisers, gloves, and masks but that was only in the beginning and that too just five of each for everyone. These were use-and-throw ones, and so we ran out of them in less than a week.
My supervisors also used to hold monthly meetings to go over the protocols and the rules for surveying. They would use these meetings to address any common mistakes that everyone was making. These monthly meetings started very late, sometime in June or July 2020. Before that, they would only talk to us via phone calls or WhatsApp.
This one time, I told my supervisors to not assign me houses that were far away from my place of stay because I did not have a transport facility. It would have become difficult to travel late in the evenings because of safety issues. They understood and assigned me houses that I could travel to comfortably.
Q: What has motivated you to come to work and carry out your activities during the pandemic?
Anganwadi Worker: I have been in this job for 11 years now, so it is like a duty to me. I have to keep doing it because this is where I get my money from. I am the sole earner of my family and my husband died years ago, I have to keep doing this to stay alive.
During the pandemic, this work seemed like community service rather than a job. I was helping people and giving back to society. This thought kept me going.
It is very difficult to get a job these days, and I have had the fortune of sustaining this one for 11 years, so I am always motivated to keep working on my job.
This interview was conducted as a part of a research study funded by the Azim Premji University under the COVID-19 Research Funding Programme 2020. The study delves into the experiences of frontline workers in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was conducted with an Anganwadi Worker in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh on 11 January 2021 in Hindi, and has been translated.
Credit: The Telegraph