SPOTLIGHT: “We didn’t die from COVID, but certainly, we are all dying from poverty”

Seva Kendra Silchar, a Catholic social service initiative is empowering women in India to cultivate their way out of poverty and starvation

The steep hills of Kalian village in the northeastern state of Assam in India are brimming with green foliage and vegetation. The region is also known for its wildlife, archeological sites, and tea plantations.

In the midst of one such hillock is a dwelling that belongs to Kache Derapi, a 37-year-old woman, a mother of three children — two boys and a three-year-old girl — and her husband, who lost his job because of the pandemic.

Wearing a smile on her face, Derapi sings a melancholic folk song while she sprinkles water on the betel nut (areca palm) saplings that she is preparing for sale in the local market.

It was just a year ago when her husband, who used to be a daily wage laborer earning less than US$100 a month, lost his job after the factory where he was working shut down due to the lockdown brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Derapi admits that she found it difficult to sustain the family, especially with a husband who seemed to have lost the drive to work and starts and ends the day staring at nowhere.

“We didn’t die from COVID, but certainly, we are all dying from poverty,” the woman tells LiCAS News in an interview.

She says that in the first three months of the pandemic, “I sustained the family by selling the jewelry I got at the time of my marriage.”

Days turned to weeks then to months, and the money started to dwindle. Derapi became desperate with the thought that soon they might starve.

“I was ready to work as a maid, but due to COVID people were reluctant to even allow maids inside their homes,” she says.

“The markets were shut, roads were desolate, and incomes were draining. Home was becoming our grave,” says Derapi.

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