New Delhi: The coronavirus (COVID-19) came as a crisis like no other the world has faced in recent decades in terms of its potential economic and social impacts, especially for people working as daily wage workers. 15 year old Ananya Seth from Bengaluru realised this during the COVID lockdown period, when she witnessed her housekeeper struggling to make ends meet and having no financial coverage or insurance.
Ms. Seth told the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India how her house help had met with a car accident and had no health insurance to cover the bills for her surgery.
Anupama Rao, another Bengaluru teenager, witnessed the same issue with her mother’s patient, who was expecting triplets and faced pregnancy complications. Ms. Rao said that the patient refused to go to the hospital for delivery, fearing bankruptcy. Ms. Rao informed,
The patient feared the financial fallout, and because of that, she lost all three of those healthy babies. That is when I realised that not only was healthcare a big issue, I needed to make sure that these women had sustained access to healthcare.
Both Ms. Seth and Ms. Rao, who are Class 9 students from the National Academy for Learning (NAFL), realised how lack of access to healthcare worsened the gender inequality. They decided that providing health insurance was a viable solution to address gender inequality and empower disadvantaged women.
The teenagers launched Project ‘Udaan’ with the aim to bridge the financial gap for economically backward women by getting them into health insurance and policies. The girls were mentored by the organisation, One Million for One Billion (1M1B) to help them get their idea off the ground.
1M1B engages and enables youth to become future ready problem solvers creating real world impact. Established in 2014, 1M1B is a United Nations accredited non-profit with special consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is associated with the UN Department of Global Communications.
Talking about the mentoring received from 1M1B, Ms. Seth said,
Through several mentoring sessions, calls, and late-night presentations, 1M1B taught us how to present our project, how to explain our cause so that it mattered as much to other people as it did to us.
The first two women to receive the benefits of the project were the women who worked with these teenagers. Later, they reached out to the women working as daily wage workers in the neighbourhood.
Following this, the teenagers conducted workshops to educate women about the benefits of health insurance. So far, they have reached out to multiple schools to conduct awareness sessions for the female students and the staff on health insurance and are helping the school staff get access to health insurance.
To accelerate the reach of their project, the teenagers have worked on a lot of partnerships and are now working with different insurance companies to create a larger impact for their user group. The two youngsters complement each other wonderfully and work as a perfect team.
Talking about the Project Udaan, 1M1B Co-Founder, Manav Subodh, said,
We create an atmosphere for the students, an environment for them where they believe that they can make a change in the world because, with so much negativity. We give them a positive environment and an assuring structure.
Through 1M1B, the girls expanded to helping women in rural Tamil Nadu and raised money through crowdfunding to help with insurance premiums. They even presented their work at 1M1B Activate Impact Summit at the United Nations Headquarters, New York in December 2022. They were selected from over 100 students part of the Future Leaders Program based on their Project impact to present at the 1M1B Activate Impact Summit at the UN.
So far, they have conducted multiple sessions on the benefits of health insurance, reached out to more than 300 people, and issued about 15 health insurance policies in three years since they started the initiative.
The duo is not done yet. Both, Ms. Seth and Ms. Rao now plans to identify women who can spread the word in their own communities, so that awareness and access to health insurance can spread even without their direct involvement.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.