The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged not only as a public health crisis but also as a human rights concern. The pandemic and a prolonged complete nation-wide lockdown has had a grave impact on marginalized groups, especially women from all communities. The vulnerability experienced by women has increased manifold during the pandemic as a nationwide lockdown has left them exposed to great socio-economic distress. The pandemic has also posed an increased risk of gender based violence against women, as they are confined to their homes and their access to support systems has been limited by the lockdown. Additionally, women have also had to bear the brunt of the adverse conditions created by the pandemic as they are disproportionately burdened with unpaid care work at home and are responsible for managing limited household resources. They are also further vulnerable to loss of livelihood and decreased access to quality healthcare, especially such concerning sexual and reproductive health. Thus, the pandemic has put at risk the gains made for women’s human rights in the past few decades.
1. In order to map these vulnerabilities of women during the COVID-19 pandemic, AALI conducted a survey with 890 women from 45 of its intervention districts in the 3 states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand during the first phase of the nationwide lockdown.
2. Direct Response in cases of Gender Based Violence- Considering the increased vulnerability of women to violence during the lockdown, AALI widely circulated the helpline numbers for its Lucknow and Ranchi offices. We have been constantly responding to cases of gender based violence during the lockdown by providing socio-legal advice and counseling, and linking women to state institutions such as the police and one stop centers through telephonic and web-based support. AALI intervened in 251 cases of Gender based violence against women in during the nation wide lockdown in the months of March, April, May.
3. Building Capacity of Frontline Human Rights Defenders- AALI’s network of caseworkers present in 20 districts of Uttar Pradesh, 15 districts of Jharkhand and 2 districts of Uttarakhand have also been providing socio-legal support to women and marginalized communities by responding in cases of gender and identity based violence and discrimination. In addition to ensuring state response in cases of violence by coordinating with state stakeholders, AALI’s network of frontline defenders have also been working with communities to link them to their socioeconomic entitlements through government systems which are a crucial need for the time, especially in light of the changed implementation mechanisms due to COVID-19. AALI has been constantly engaging the frontline defenders and lawyers through webinars and workshops to build their capacity on coordinating rights based responses remotely.
4. Building COVID-19 Focused Resources for Frontline Human Rights Defenders and Lawyers- AALI has also developed several resources to be used by frontline human rights defenders for their interventions. The resources were designed and/or compiled to provide information and knowledge regarding accessing state systems and institutions for responding to violence and linkage to various schemes while coordinating remotely. AALI has also been compiling important orders and judgments given by the Honourable Supreme Court of India and High Courts in context of COVID-19 during the lockdown and translating them for use in the Hindi belt.
5. Humanitarian Crisis Response to Rising Food Insecurity – In addition to linking the women and other marginalized communities to the government systems in its intervention communities, AALI has also been directly providing monthly ration to the most vulnerable households there. The ration distribution is being implemented through AALI’s network of frontline human rights defenders in 20 districts of Uttar Pradesh, 15 districts of Jharkhand, and 2 districts of Uttarakhand.
6. Engaging Civil Society Through Webinars- AALI has also been engaging civil society stakeholders such as NGOs and the Youth in conversations regarding the impact of COVID-19 on women and the marginalized communities on various webinars.
a. Link to photos from youth workshops
7. Evidence Based Advocacy on COVID-19 and Women’s Human Rights- AALI has been constantly working with networks of women’s rights organizations to raise the issue of women’s vulnerabilities at the national and international level. Together, we have been emphasizing on the importance of gender-responsive policy making and their implementation through strong and accountable institutions by bringing evidence from the grassroots to the national and international fora.
8. Strengthening Networking and Collective Action- AALI has worked towards strengthening its partnership with various networks at regional, national and international levels to engage in mutual learning during COVID-19. AALI has continued dialogues with organizations such iProbono and TrustLaw, nation networks such as Agami, AMAN, Lam-lynti Chittara Neralu, the SAJAG network and grantee partners of our donors. We have also increased engagement with international networks such as FAR and Civicus. AALI has also maintained continuous interaction with educational institutions such as the NLSIU and AMITY university during COVID-19 as well as with various media houses.