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Women Cooperators in Iran on the forefront of campaign against COVID-19



We celebrate 2020 International Women's Day by expressing support for the Iranian Women Co-operators' Think Tank which has been active in the battle against the COVID-19 outbreak, alongside Iran's medical community. Iran’s cooperative entities, Tehran's Handicraft Cooperative Union, Iranian Chamber of Cooperatives (ICC), the Iranian Co-operators' Association, and Rah-e-Roshd cooperative school have been closely cooperating with the Women Co-operators' Think Tank in fighting the disaster. Here is a quick look at work being carried out by Iran’s cooperatives:


  • In Golestan province, Gonbad-e-Kavus Welfare Cooperative in collaboration with the local medical university has started a project of producing one million masks and isolation gowns for medical personnel. This project is similarly being followed in six other provinces. The that masks and gowns are produced in small workshops but their isolation property is taken care of by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) as the workshops don't have the necessary technology to do so. Meanwhile, Ms Salehian, a cooperator and the managing director of a women's cooperative in Golestan province, has been involved in the production of medical essentials. Their team has succeeded in mass producing masks using a reliable fabric. 

  • In Kermanshah and Arak provinces, a similar project is underway. However, due to the traffic ban between Tehran and the two provinces, it is has not been possible to obtain the special ‘tissue’ fabric used for producing medical masks. Cooperatives here have improvised to use a polyester fabric (Tetron), whose properties are similar to tissue.  

  • In Tehran, the Handicraft Cooperative Union has taken bold steps in cleansing and disinfecting pavements and ATMs across the district. Under joint support of Tehran's Municipality and UNESCO club, Sepidjamegan Volunteering Campaign has kicked-off to welcome and organise the members of the public joining the fight against COVID-19.
  • Rah-e-Roshd cooperative school has joint the nationwide Dastyar campaign, announcing readiness to provide their comprehensive online education service to all schools across the country to help them make up for the hiatus faced by schools due to the lockdown.


The phenomenal response by women cooperators in these unprecedented times will unmistakably facilitate social resilience in the face of this pandemic.


Farmers organisation, IFFCO, responds to containment efforts




The Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Ltd. (IFFCO), the leading cooperative in India has been active in lending its hand in fighting Corona Virus. IFFCO’s five Fertilizer Units in the country are functional and producing Fertilizers and essential soil nutrients to ensure the agriculture operations in the country are not affected.  IFFCO’s field staff across the country have been active in providing masks, soaps and other protective gears to farmers and laborers. In response to the call made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the people of India to contribute to the PM CARES Fund toward relief efforts against the coronavirus outbreak, IFFCO made a very generous contribution of $3.6 million to the Fund. Dr. U.S. Awasthi, Managing Director IFFCO said, “Our humble contribution, made on behalf of staff, members and farmers, is to strengthen  the country’s efforts at fighting against COVID19.


Impact of Covid-19 on the informal economy


Watch Mirai Chatterjee’s message on the impact of COVID-19 here


SEWA is a central trade union that works with women in the informal sector. We draw here from SEWA members and workers from 20 different trades across 11 states who were interviewed about their awareness of COVID, how it was already impacting their income and their families, their access to clean water, and medical services. Some key insights are presented below:


The informal sector, despite being a huge contributor to India’s GDP, is often neglected when it comes to supportive policies especially in times of crises. Currently, with the spread of the COVID-19, there is significant rallying by governments, policymakers and health professionals for ‘social distancing’ and maintenance of proper hygiene. This implies minimising contact with the outside world and taking precautionary personal hygiene measures such as frequent use of hand sanitisers, wearing masks when ill and other such.


While these advisories may seem simple enough to carry out for a large proportion of the formal sector workforce, they are exclusionary towards informal sector workers as it is impossible for them to observe these measures due to the nature of their livelihood and their socio-economic standing.  


SEWA for its part is engaging in advocacy efforts on behalf of the informal economy; establishing market linkages for SEWA production units and social enterprises to stitch and distribute masks, production of fair cost sanitisers and hand wash via lok swasthya; carrying out awareness campaigns- videos, voice messages, whatsapp forwards; ensuring timely access to savings through our mobile bank saathis and banking correspondents promoting savings and credit across states – Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Gujarat.