Shantaben and her husband live in Jawaharnagar village in Patan district, Gujarat. They are in their fifties and were convinced by Ramaben, the local ASHA worker to take the COVID-19 vaccine. A few days after being vaccinated, when the associated fever and body ache did not subside, Ramaben suggested that the couple get tested. Shantaben was found to be COVID-19 positive. The doctor at the primary health centre advised her to remain quarantined at home, take the prescribed medication, and rest.
Shantaben and her husband own 2.5 bighas of land on which they cultivate wheat during the winter. Since it was harvest time, the entire family was engaged in the harvest operations. Shantaben decided that since their farm was located quite far from the village, she could quarantine at the farm as well as help the family with the harvest work. A week later Shantaben passed away in her sleep. Her worsening condition must have gone unnoticed. Everyone that heard about her death blamed the vaccine.
Ramaben says that post this incident the resistance to vaccination has shot up. Women are especially resistant, fearing death or other illnesses which will affect their responsibility towards their families and farms. The socialisation of women as the primary caregivers in the household is accepted by women themselves, as well as their families. This burden of work prevents timely detection and treatment of illnesses.
Poonam Kathuria, Karen Pineiro, and Neha Chavda work at Society for Women’s Action and Training Initiatives (SWATI), a feminist organisation that focuses on prevention of all forms of violence against women. This story is reconstructed from an interview with a GBV counsellor as part of a study by SWATI on the gendered impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls.
Know more: Read about the impact of the second wave of COVID-19 in Palghar, a tribal district in Maharashtra.
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