India’s COVID-19 crisis: The role of social entrepreneurs

  • India is facing a second wave of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
  • Social entrepreneurs are committed to helping those hardest hit by the health and economic impact of the crisis.
  • Here are six examples from the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

As India witnesses the second wave of COVID-19 and one of the worst public health crises of all time, the situation on the ground is grim.

The speed and efficiency with which social entrepreneurs have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in India and its impact has made one thing clear: their local presence and ability to act as first responders to support vulnerable communities is incredibly important to global ones COVID-19 Response Efforts.

We urgently need to support this underappreciated cohort of leaders who are on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. They have critical lessons to teach for building a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable economy.

Here’s how six social enterprises from the Schwab Foundation’s community of social innovators are working to save lives in India at this devastating time.

The COVID Response Alliance to Social Entrepreneurs — which will soon resume its work as the Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship — was launched in April 2020 in response to the devastating effects of the pandemic. Co-founded by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship along with Ashoka, Echoing Green, GHR Foundation, Skoll Foundation and Yunus Social Business.

The Alliance provides a trusted community for the world’s leading companies, investors, governments, intermediaries, academics and media, working together to promote social entrepreneurship and innovation.

Since its inception, it has grown into the largest multi-stakeholder coalition in the field of social enterprise: its 90+ members collectively support over 100,000 social entrepreneurs around the world. These entrepreneurs, in turn, have a direct or indirect impact on the lives of an estimated 2 billion people.

Together they work to (i) mobilize support for social entrepreneurs and their plans; (ii) take action on urgent global agendas by harnessing the power of social entrepreneurship, and (iii) share insights from the sector so social entrepreneurs can thrive and lead in shaping an inclusive, just and sustainable world.

The Alliance is working closely with affiliates Echoing Green and GHR Foundation, as well as the Center for the New Economy and Society, to launch their 2022 roadmap (to be announced soon).

1. Providing resources to the most vulnerable.

goonj is an NGO based in New Delhi, India that carries out disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and community development in parts of 23 states across India. The organization regards the waste of urban India as a surplus resource and untapped wealth. This is especially important in times of disaster or emergency.

During the crisis, Goonj has already worked with more than 400 partner organizations to expand its reach in both rural and urban areas. It has distributed more than 8,800 tons of rations and other essential items, provided more than 362,000 meals, sourced 2,25,000 kg of vegetables from farmers, reached more than 380,000 families (about 1.5 million people), and produced more than 800,000 face masks and more than 12,00,000 cloth sanitary napkins.

2. Support for women in the informal economy

In India there are 500 million poor and vulnerable informal workers who are day labourers. These include contract labourers, casual labourers, construction workers, farm workers, homeworkers particularly in textile and garment manufacturing, Beedi workers, self-employed including street vendors, waste recyclers, handcart drivers, auto rickshaw drivers and many more who struggle daily to meet their minimal basic needs through their to cover daily work. The pandemic has severely affected their daily income and therefore their income to support themselves.

The Association of Self-Employed Women (SEWA), an organization that supports self-employed women on behalf of its 1.7 million workers in 18 states of India, has called on the government to provide income support to all families of informal economy workers to help bridge this crisis in a circular to all states to declare a compensation package of Rs 5,000/- per month for all registered workers, provide a free public ration supply distribution system while the crisis lasts and offer a six-month payback on repayment of all loans.

3. Provision of resources for migrants

India saw a major exodus of migrant workers from the cities as the COVID-19 lockdown began. Aajeevika officea specialized institutional initiative providing services, support and security to rural seasonal workers has been heavily involved in providing support to stranded migrant workers, day wagers and their households to get them through this time of need.

Aid included emergency food distributions, cash transfers, medical supplies, and assistance to workers in need who reached us through our Labor Line. They also provided travel assistance to migrants trying to return home. For the migrants returning to their villages, the organization played an active role in facilitating their connection to social security systems and benefits.

4. Health care for people in remote areas

Glocal Healthcare was established in 2010 in response to the tremendous need for healthcare services in India, particularly in rural areas where an estimated 28 million people living in remote and underserved areas lack access to affordable and accountable healthcare services.

Glocal Healthcare was recently launched a free telemedicine consultation for COVID-19 screenings. These can be accessed over the phone line as well as through websites and apps. The goal is to prevent panic; Ensuring proper evaluation, triage and treatment before conditions become too serious; and prevent the collapse of health infrastructure.

Over the past 10 years, the company has built 10 fully operational, 100-bed, multi-specialty hospitals in states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. It has set up 250 digital pharmacies offering video consultations, exams, exams and automated medication dispensing.

5. Support for migrant families, survivors of sexual violence and frontline workers

Jan Sahaswith over five years of experience working with migrant workers, construction workers and day laborers, proactively formulated a multi-pronged approach to help workers meet their immediate needs and to protect them from the long-term effects of the economic crisis.

Within 100 days of the COVID-19 lockdown, Jan Sahas received support from more than 30 philanthropic and private donors (resulting in more than $2 million) and worked with 42 non-profit organizations across 19 states of India to meet the needs of more than 10 to be met. 40,000 migrant families, 1,237 sexual violence survivors, 12,480 frontline health workers and state actors through emergency relief.

Image: Man Deshi

6. Giving women access to finance

man deshi is dedicated to the economic empowerment of rural women in India. Headquartered in Maharashtra, she operates the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank, India’s first bank by and for rural women, and the Mann Deshi Foundation, which provides women with entrepreneurship skills, education, support and access, and other women’s support services.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Mann Deshi Foundation has worked non-stop to provide assistance – including providing food parcels, masks and PPE kits. It has also partnered with a county government to build a 300-bed COVID-19 hospital by renovating an old, unused rural hospital and converting it into a free, dedicated COVID-19 hospital. Mann Deshi’s team is also working 24/7 with the district administration to provide oxygen beds, ventilators, remdisvir and tocilizumab to critically ill patients.

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