Jayashree B, Sunaina Kumar, Anirban Sarma, Vanita Sharma, and Shoba Suri, Eds., The First Responders: Women Who Led India Through the Pandemic, April 2022, Reliance Foundation and Observer Research Foundation.
The COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. Global in scope and wide-ranging in impact, it requires bold and urgent interventions in every field of endeavour, particularly to support vulnerable communities who bear the brunt of the pandemic’s cascading effects.
The First Responders tells the stories of twenty-five Indian women who led their communities through the challenges of the pandemic. Each story in this volume chronicles a woman’s leadership journey, and explores how she crafted an impactful pandemic response. The leaders gave governance a human face, promoted entrepreneurship and livelihoods, ensured access to food and water, strengthened public health systems, and galvanised vaccination campaigns. Yet, many of them remain largely unrecognised and their achievements are underreported. The First Responders aims to highlight some of these powerful, yet untold stories. The book raises awareness about these women’s exemplary work, and seeks to catalyse efforts to invest in women’s empowerment and leadership at every level of governance.
The stories span every part of India—from Uttarakhand in the north, to Karnataka in the south, Nagaland in the north-east, and Gujarat in the west. As the stories criss-cross India’s six regions, six lessons emerge. First, we must build ecosystems of awareness that incubate women’s intrinsic ability to lead. Second, we must promote sustainable livelihoods for women. Third, we must make every effort to promote collaboration among women and women’s collectives at the individual, group, and institutional levels. Fourth, community leaders must be able to build trust-based relationships within communities. Fifth, we need to act and communicate urgently in order to strengthen public healthcare systems. And sixth, collectively, we must ensure women’s right to live with dignity.
A key feature of this book is the replicability of the actions that the stories describe. The methods used by a particular leader, and the lessons learned from her work, could be applied elsewhere. The book could, thus, serve as a useful tool for development practitioners and policymakers. Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals commits the international community to the aim of ensuring “women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership […] in political, economic and public life.” The First Responders demonstrates the impact of doing so.
Read the report here
Editors: Jayashree Balasubramanian, Sunaina Kumar, Anirban Sarma, Vanita Sharma and Shoba Suri
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.
Pratnashree Basu is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata, with the CNED programme. She is a 2017 US Department of State IVLP Fellow ...Read More +
Noyontara Gupta is a Junior Fellow with Programmes, Appraisal and Management. She is also the Intern Coordinator at ORF Delhi. Her research interests include international ...Read More +
Shruti Jain was Coordinator for the Think20 India Secretariat and Associate Fellow Geoeconomics Programme at ORF. She holds a Masters degree in Public Policy and ...Read More +
Anahita Khanna was a Manager Media and Publications at ORF. She was responsible for the communications strategy of the organisations publications events and forums. She ...Read More +
Sunaina Kumar is a Senior Fellow at ORF and Executive Director at Think20 India Secretariat. At ORF, she works with the Centre for New Economic ...Read More +
Dr Swati Prabhu is Associate Fellow with theCentre for New Economic Diplomacy (CNED). Her research explores the interlinkages between Indias development partnerships and the Sustainable ...Read More +
Anirban Sarma is Deputy Director of ORF Kolkata and a Senior Fellow at ORF’s Centre for New Economic Diplomacy. He is also Chair of the ...Read More +
Dr. Shoba Suri is a Senior Fellow with ORFs Health Initiative. Shoba is a nutritionist with experience in community and clinical research. She has worked on nutrition, ...Read More +