Analysis: COVID-19 Has Devastated India’s Self-Employed Women. Here’s How To Support Them.
Lasuben Shivlal Raval is a 70-year-old grandmother from Ahmedabad in India. She has worked as a ‘headloader’ – a goods carrier – in one of the city’s biggest wholesale cloth markets for decades. Her work was always tough, but life became immeasurably harder for Lasuben and her fellow workers when Covid-19 struck and business slumped. Yet she has not given up, and in her position as the leader of the local headloaders she has helped coordinate assistance for her sister workers.
The efforts of Lasuben and thousands of aagewans, or local women leaders, has been crucial in the current crisis. Embedded in their communities, they have been pivotal in providing health education and awareness about coronavirus, as well as linking people to basic medical care.
The impact of COVID-19 in India has been devastating, and the burden has not fallen equally. Women employed in the country’s huge informal economy have been hit disproportionately hard as millions of livelihoods have become even more precarious or evaporated completely. As the world looks beyond the current crisis to a post-pandemic future, it is essential to ensure lower-skilled workers like Lasuben are not left behind by the shifting tectonic plates of the global labour market, and that they have the tools to achieve self-reliance.