By Russell Gill, Head of Community Delivery, Community and Shared Value

I’m sure you’ll have seen the news coverage about the second wave of coronavirus which has spread quickly and ruthlessly across India, affecting both urban and rural communities. There’s been an unprecedented loss of life and livelihoods, largely due to an unprepared and overwhelmed health infrastructure. 

The impact of this crisis has fallen disproportionately on informal women workers. Women are primarily tasked with caring for the sick, as well as being responsible for household work. They’ve lost their source of income, putting them and their households in great distress. The crisis has also resonated with many colleagues in recent weeks who work ‘virtually’ alongside our IT support partners who are based in India.

Co-operatives UK is co-ordinating the UK retail society response to the devastating impact of the global pandemic in India. This is fantastic news, and such a marvellous example of collaboration during Co-op Fortnight, the two weeks of the year when co-ops and organisations across the UK come together to raise awareness of what it truly means to be a co-op. 

We‘ve confirmed an arrangement with SEWA, the Co-operative Federation in India who work with 106 women’s co-ops, enabling them to provide a sustainable livelihood for female workers. Established in 1972, it currently has 1.8 million members, across 18 states in the country. 

Our collective contribution of £102,000 will help to battle the second wave and address emergency health needs and protect livelihoods. The donation will be routed via the Co-operative College due to its charity status and it’s established process of working with Co-operatives UK – and to make sure we can make a difference without delay. 

The contribution will be invested in areas which most need support at both a household and community level – including the provision of much needed basic supplies through their female networks, including masks, soap/sanitiser, health kits (with anoximeter, thermometer, paracetamols and vitamins), as well as providing critical supplies including oxygen. 

It’ll also help support information and guidance and community health resources – promoting vaccination eligibility and helping to dispel the myths and fear around them. This’ll include the latest corinavirus-related information and awareness, including audio-video messages on its prevention, treatment and where to go for referral care. The support will also help set up a helpline number with a network of doctors, who’ll be available for consultation to those who are in need.

And we’ll also continue to work closely with SEWA so that once the current crisis has passed, we can share how our collective co-op donations have been utilised and what impact it’s had.