The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has claimed the lives of 3,15,263
Indians as of now. Families of those who died are devastated— physically, emotionally and financially. Women, who have lost their spouse, are an especially vulnerable group. They suffer the manifold effects of the pandemic and are going through a myriad of painful emotions
. While trying to cope with their grief, these women also need to support their children and extended family. Their trauma is not just physical or emotional. The image of an uncertain future is also traumatic for them. Often, the widowed women feel that they are alone, their life on a full-stop, with no way forward.
With COVID-19 taking away the sole earning member, many families face financial uncertainties. Women, along with coping with their trauma and loneliness, also need to financially support their families. It’s challenging, as many of them had left their jobs to look after their families or due to various reasons and pressures. Trying to restart a career and rebuild a family amidst the grieving process is extremely difficult.
The ‘Covid Widow Help
’ initiative seeks to help such women widowed by the COVID-19 crisis by providing round-the-clock support in grief and career counselling, and skill development to earn a stable living.
How does the portal help?
The portal adopts a 4-step process
Drafting a résumé
Training for interviews
The initiative looks to make it simple for the impacted women to get assistance. Once they receive an application from a woman in need, they evaluate the kind of help she requires. If it is career-related, their volunteers, who have been vetted and mapped for their skills, will go through the application and connect one-on-one to offer the required assistance.
After this, through the initiative, they look to connect the woman with potential employers. They also help the women to prepare for interviews and help them build a résumé. They are looking to make it hassle-free for the grieving woman to find a way forward.
Women can avail round-the-clock support in grief and career counselling, résumé writing, gaining referrals, and preparing for interviews, and other areas of skill development. Those seeking help are required to share their name, email ID, phone number, place of residence, and résumé.
Yudhvir Mor, vice president and country manager of US-based software company Zuora, decided to launch the portal when he saw the trauma of a friend’s family. “He was a bright guy and to see his wife and two small children in grief moved me no end. He was the sole earning member in his family. I began thinking -- what will happen to his family and kids now? It also struck me that there must be hundreds of such women who have lost their husbands to the pandemic. Who was helping them?” he says.
Mr Mor reached out to ex-colleagues, college friends, and industry leaders before he started the initiative. Within three weeks of the launch, he has been able to garner help from about 4,000 senior IT executives on LinkedIn who have offered to provide skill development and counselling to bereaved women. He says the response has been overwhelming so far.
Mr Mor explained that the primary mission of the initiative is to assist women who have lost their sole earning member to COVID find financial stability. He says, “We hope to support them to restart their professional careers and enable them to look at their future objectively. This includes résumé building, career counselling, and assistance to restart their careers by tying up with organisations having suitable job openings.”
Elaborating further on the model, he said “Our working model is simple. This initiative is 100% volunteer and society-driven. We work based on a non-financial model and don’t accept donations or sponsorship. Instead, we rely on the individual volunteers and their expertise to help these women. We are also reaching out to CXOs (C-level executives), who can help this initiative reach as many impacted women as possible. Our initial target is to assist at least 1,000 women to start their careers and make them financially independent in the next few months. We believe no woman should have to go through the aftermath of this pandemic alone. Our aim is to help every single woman who reaches out to us, no matter what their skill-sets are.”
Since getting launched on 11th May, the portal has been getting over 1,000 calls, e-mails, and WhatsApp messages a day from across the country. Most callers are from big cities.
“We understand that some of you may have put your careers on the back burner by prioritising your family members, and now, with the loss of a spouse, you will need to support yourself, your children, and extended family too,” Mr Mor said while reaching out to those women who have lost their husbands to COVID-19.
Though the initiative was started to help COVID widows, they soon had even young girls (who had lost their fathers) approaching them for work. They then expanded and started basing their decisions on the gravity of the cases before them.
With most beneficiaries hailing from urban areas now, the initiative aims to reach the maximum number of women who need help, beyond the city population. It is also looking to on-board women leaders from across industries to join the women-focused initiative.
While the initiative does not accept any financial help or corporate donations, it only seeks help from senior executives, media, and corporate houses to spread the word in their network.
About 7,000 volunteers, comprising psychologists, gynaecologists, home-makers and students work round the clock to help the women. “Most callers want to be financially independent and are not keen to live with their in-laws.
"They want to start working to provide for their children and also put their own education to good use. A majority of the callers are housewives, who have completed their formal education and wish to start working,” Mr Mor added.. The initiative has so far received 1,000 applications and 50 candidates have been matched with their potential employers.
Many people have come out in support of the initiative and applauded the efforts.
Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor too lent her voice to the campaign and tried to spread awareness through her Instagram account. She appealed to her fans and followers to spread information about this initiative.
Sharing the information on her Instagram story, Kareena shared an empathetic note. She expressed that one cannot understand the pain of women who lost their partners but can help them in standing up again. She urged everyone to share the information on their social media handles.