DHAKA, Dec 14, 2020 (BSS) – It came as a nightmare for Kalpana Sarkar, a marginal woman living in a hard-to-reach area of Kalmakanda in Netrakona district, when she tested novel coronavirus (COVID-19) positive in August last.
“I tested COVID-19 positive on August 20 and stayed at home isolation. And after 14 days, I got relief from the disease,” said the 40-year-old Kalpana.
Despite tested coronavirus negative, Kalpana and her three family members got isolated in her community as her neighbours started avoiding her family aiming to keep themselves safe from the highly infectious virus.
“I know COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease but people of my neighborhood think that it’s a curse from God,” she said.
As a member of the Women Development Forum, Kalpana said: “Overcoming all the odds, I’ve shared my experience of the COVID-19 infection with my neighbours and made them understood how they can remain safe from the lethal virus.”
After recovery from the COVID-19, Kalpana said she started making her neighbours aware of the disease, advising them not to worry about it and follow the health guidelines to keep them away from the virus.
“Now people of our village are more aware of the coronavirus. They use mask and hand sanitiser or wash hands to protect themselves from the disease,” she added.
Afia Khatun, a woman member of Rangchhati Union Parishad of Kalmakanda upazila, said following the health guidelines, the women forum members regularly hold courtyard meetings with local people aiming to create awareness among them about the COVID-19 impacts.
“I’ve already organised two courtyard meetings at Harinakuri village of my union,” she added.
Kalmaknada upazila female vice-chairman and Women Development Forum president Afroza Begum Shimu said last year they formed the forum involving all the women public representatives of the upazila with the technical support from UNDP’s Efficient and Accountable Local Governance (EALG) Project.
“All members of the forum are now working together to address coronavirus crisis in Kalmakanda,” she said.
Shimu said the forum members are conducting awareness campaign at ward level and suggesting rural women to play an active role in mitigating their economic hardship amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Kalmakanda was affected by flood four times this year. Our male family members returned home from their respective work places in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. That’s why we, the women, have to take the responsibility of our families,” she said.
The upazila vice-chairman said the forum members have been encouraging women in making handicraft products, cultivating vegetables on their yards and rearing poultry so that they can help their respective families to cope with the global pandemic.
Noting that they are inspiring youths to join part-time works to help their families, Shimu said as a result of their campaign, some youths are now working at brickfields, while some are earning money carrying passengers by motorbikes and some are catching fish in rivers.
“We also provided cash support to the people hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.
About the role of the women development forum in addressing coronavirus crisis in Kalmakanda, UNDP district facilitator Md Abdur Razzaque said Kalmakanda is a hard-to-reach area where a huge number of lower-income people live in and they are not aware of the adverse consequences of the deadly virus.
“But, the forum is playing an important role in this regard. Its members are conducting awareness campaign among commoners, advising them to use mask, wash hands and avoid public gatherings to keep them safe from the lethal virus,” he said.