ASHAs of Odisha: overcoming COVID related stigma and discrimination

Bhubaneshwar, July 2, 2020: Manju
Jeena, an ASHA from village
Kandalei of Khurda
district, Odisha, has been
working tirelessly to support
COVID-19 related activities
and ensure that her community
has access to essential
and other health services.
In her years of committed
community service, Manju
has built up significant
social capital, enabling her
to effectively negotiate in
addressing COVID related
stigma and resultant discrimination.
When a young returnee
migrant was denied entry
into the village and his
home, Manju took it upon
herself to single-handedly
address the stigmatizing
behavior of the community.
She combined community
awareness on COVID-19
with relentless advocacy to
ensure that the returnee was
able to stay in home quarantine.
She rigorously undertook
follow up on his health status
and healthcare needs in
the quarantine period.
During the lockdown, she
continued to facilitate access
to other essential health
services.
She encouraged and
accompanied several pregnant
women for institutional
delivery.
Going beyond the call of
duty, Manju also sewed face
masks at home and distributed
them to the poor in her
village.
About 46,627 ASHAs in
Odisha have emerged as
champions against COVID-
19 in rural and urban areas,
addressing local health
needs.
They are seen to be working
closely with Gaon
Kalyan Samitis in the rural
areas and Mahila Arogaya
Samitis in the urban areas,
community collectives within
which ASHAs are embedded.
They have used these
forums to facilitate COVID
preventive actions by promoting
the use of masks/
face covers when stepping
out in public spaces, being
attentive towards frequent
hand washing, following
physical distancing, enhancing
awareness of COVID
symptoms etc.
The ASHAs have created
wide awareness about these
through IEC activities like
distribution of leaflets and
posters at Swasthya Kanthas
(walls at village level).

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