The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact around the globe. The situation in India has been devastating, with the healthcare system close to collapse under the strain of thousands of people requiring medical attention. This devastation has been particularly tough for India’s rural population where shortages in doctors, hospital beds and medical equipment have left many communities ill-equipped to deal with the heath crisis. Additionally, lockdowns imposed by the country have limited access to work, food, and education and resulted in extreme economic hardship for many of the country’s poorest citizens.
Voice from the Village
The Dharma Life Entrepreneurs (DLEs) – who are trained agents of change based in rural India – play a crucial role in helping us to gain insights into the challenges, needs and requirements of families based in rural India.
We took insights from the DLEs across various states to understand how we can tackle this pandemic together.
The key challenges:
- Healthcare & preventative measures: Many people are not following preventative guidelines including, wearing of masks, social distancing and seeking vaccination. This is due to a lack of access to vaccines and essential supplies (facemasks, hand sanitiser and tests). Vaccine hesitancy among rural communities is also prevalent due to misinformation and distrust in medical advice.
- Financial restraints: Economic hardship is increasing for many families with unemployment on the rise. Many have limited savings and with little access to social security measures people are worried for their survival.
- Mental health & wellbeing: High unemployment and limited access to health care and education is directly affecting the mental health and wellbeing of many communities.
- Education: Lockdowns imposed on communities are preventing children from attending school. Many children in rural areas do not have access to the internet or resources and are not able to continue their education from home.
Dharma Life’s response
Since the onset of Covid-19, Dharma Life has been engaging with its existing rural network of over 17,000 DLEs who are trained agents of change. Through the DLEs, the objective has been to tackle the effects of the pandemic in a holistic way. The ‘We for Village’ Alliance Model in partnership with The Wheeler Institute for Business and Development, Accenture, BMW Foundation, The DOEN Foundation, Elea foundation, EY, Ford Foundation, FMO, GIZ, London School of Economics, Good Energies Foundation, Pathfinder International, Shell Foundation, Siriti, TRANSFORM, Unilever, UK Aid, Xynteo & Yuvaa (supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) has focussed efforts on creating awareness, addressing basic needs and improving economic conditions on the ground. During this wave of the pandemic, Dharma Life will further focus its efforts on:
- Saving Lives;
- Securing livelihoods;
- Connecting communities;
- Systemic Support;
- Building continued awareness.
The plan of action is a phased approach, starting with 5,000 DLEs accessing 15,000 villages. Scaling up to 40,000 villages.
We will create impact through a series of awareness campaigns by informing communities of the benefits of preventative measures and vaccination. Using WhatsApp, the DLEs will connect directly with families in rural India to disseminate information and engage villagers.
In addition, the We for Village Alliance is addressing the delivery of essential goods, medical assistance and supporting livelihoods by building long-term resilience through upskilling and generating job opportunities through technology and digital capabilities.
Finally, by helping other key organisations to connect with villages, we will create a two-way communication channel to promote ongoing collaboration.
As of 12 May 2021, 2,655 Dharma Life Entrepreneurs have created impact within 4,500 villages in rural India. Our target is to enlist the support of 10,000 Dharma Life Entrepreneurs to connect with more than 30,000 villages in rural India.
The crucial role of business education and academic research
Dharma Life has been working with London Business School for nearly 10 years, collaborating with faculty, students and staff. The Voice of the Village roundtable series, our most recent collaboration with the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development covers three pillars of activity:
- conducting rigorous research
- forging communities of practice and
- shaping business education.
This collaboration involves a series of virtual events – where academic research informs discussion with rural villagers and global partners – to come up with solutions to various challenges faced in rural communities.
How can students help?
We are seeking expertise and outreach support from our extended community of students and researchers, who can provide strategic advice and insights for the roll-out of effective programmes. This includes supply chain assistance, technological expertise and access to field doctors and mental health experts for consultations.
We are also preparing a series of hackathons to address village community challenges that people are facing right now.
Join us to help the communities of rural India.
Your ideas and participation will provide much-needed help to address the ongoing challenges generated by the pandemic in India.
Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.