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At Covid frontlines: Female sanitation workers bring health and hygiene

As Covid-19 continues to sweep across the world, the frontline workers including sanitation workers continue to meet their core responsibilities. Despite the risks, sanitation workers are out in full force to fight the deadly virus.

Post by on Friday, May 21, 2021

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Mir Baseerat

 

As Covid-19 continues to sweep across the world, the frontline workers including sanitation workers continue to meet their core responsibilities. Despite the risks, sanitation workers are out in full force to fight the deadly virus.

Sanitation workers, especially female municipality workers, have been bearing the brunt of Covid-19 crisis but they make sure the neighbourhoods, streets, and public areas stay clean.

They pick up the waste by wearing gloves, boots, uniform and following all necessary precautions.

No matter how worse the situation, these workers meet their obligations sincerely. These are the essential services that help keep people healthy and safe.

More than 100 families associated with cleaning and sweeping reside in Sheikh Mohalla near Makhdoom Sahib Shrine.

Fehmeeda, a mother of three works tirelessly day and night to support her family.

Widowed at an early age she has been the bread winner in her family.

“My shift starts at 6 in the morning and ends at 2 pm, I look after the areas within Khanyar Municipal Limit,” said Fehmeeda.

Fehmeeda was appointed right before the pandemic started in the valley. However she is not a permanent employee yet but still she manages to financially support her family properly.

“I was quite reluctant to go out before as I have three younger children at home, but going out became a necessity as I had to financially support my family,” she said.

Fehmeeda said sweeping roads and cleaning trash from the households is her responsibility. “I never run away from my duties.” She feels she is more responsible towards the cleanliness in this ongoing pandemic.

She said, “Safayi aadha imaan hai (Cleanliness is next to Godliness)” and she doesn’t hesitate to clean the surroundings and take out the garbage with my own hands.

“There is no shame in any work, especially when you know you have a family to support and I have to do everything on my own to pay the electricity bills, school fee of my children, and other household expenses,” said Fehmeeda.

Another worker Raja Begum continued her work despite having chest related concerns.

The fear of Covid-19 infection did not deter her from fulfilling her duty.

“I go straight to the bathroom and sanitize myself before meeting my family after getting back from work,” said Raja

Raja takes care of the areas near SMHS hospital. “We are most prone to infection amongst all the frontline as we have to pick up the waste including masks, gloves and other medical waste,” said Raja.

She said there is a prolonging threat that she might become a carrier and infect her family including her children as she is very exposed to the virus.

“I also fear what will happen if I stay home and don't do my job, my husband used to sell clothes in Sunday markets but at present I am the only one earning,” she said.

She has been working since the last 20 years and there has not been a single day when she was off her duties.

All the municipal workers have been vaccinated by the department.

“We have got our first dose of vaccination done and now we are waiting for the second jab,” said Raja.

Hafeeza, another worker, said skipping a day or two from her duty piles up the garbage which creates a mess around.

“I clean it with my own hands and I don’t feel shy at all, as it is rightly said work is devotion (kaam Ibadat hai),” said Hafeeza.

Hafeeza’s father usually remains sick as he is suffering from a deadly disease and she is the one who is looking after him.

“His medicines cost me around Rs 5000 a month and I have to bear those expenses and it gives me peace and satisfaction that I’m able to look after my father when he needs me the most,” she said.

Hafeeza said she has to take extra care of her sanitization work as she already has  a critical patient at home.

“I cannot take the risk of meeting my father right after coming home from work, he has many underlying diseases and he can contract viruses very easily,” said Hafeeza.

Hafeeza said the other side of the Sheikh Mohalla has many active positive cases currently, but their mohalla was lucky to be safe all time during this pandemic.

In a society like Kashmir, where people get criticized for whatever they do, these female municipal workers never look back and perform their duties wholeheartedly and with utmost dignity. These women ensure that waste generated is being treated safely and the surroundings stay clean.

According to these workers by doing this job they are protecting more than one family and therefore, in some way saving their own families as well.

The government has laid down proper guidelines for ensuring the safety of such workers and safety measures are being enforced strictly during the Covid-19 pandemic.


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