Frontline workers put up brave fight against Covid-19 and social stigma

Women working in the front line in the fight against Covid-19 have revealed how the pandemic has had a negative impact on the way they interact with their families and communities due to the misconceptions and stigma attached to the deadly virus. 

This came out during a round table hosted by CITE, Amakhosikazi and The Girls Table, Friday, in commemoration of International Women’s Day. 

The discussion was held under the theme “Women leading the fight against Covid-19.”

One of the panelists, a Nurse, who identified herself as midwife Sister Moyo said working in the health service was a constraint to family life and community interaction. 

“This pandemic came with a lot of changes. One of the most heartbreaking scenarios was that my children were no longer able to run to me when I got home from work because each time I get home the first thing is to wash myself and wash my uniforms,” said Sr Moyo.

“Teaching the community about the pandemic starts with teaching our families. As much as my children would understand, it is heartbreaking that as young as they are, they are forced to understand the situation.”

The community on the other hand, Sr Moyo added, was not very welcoming to health workers who live in their midst. 

“There were moments when they would ban their children from playing with my children.  At times when I would go to the borehole with my family and they would all disperse. The stigma was unbearable but somehow had to be strong.”

Sitshengisiwe Siziba from the Bulawayo City Council said as a local authority employee, she endured a lot of backlash from the community. 

“When the virus first broke out it was at a time when the city was faced with water shortages. Each time we would hold community outreach programs residents would remind us that there was no water, but all the same we just had to give them the information necessary to stay safe,” Siziba said

“Our family members would castigate us for going to work at such a risky time. They would interact with us less but there was no other way to deal with the issue. The community needed us to give them the information needed to get through the pandemic.”

Another panelist, Anastasia Ndlovu who is a media practitioner pointed out that covering the pandemic has been difficult due to the challenges in accessing  information and working with limited sources.

“There is so much that people need to know about the virus and the vaccines but as journalists we have very limited sources. It thus becomes difficult to run detailed articles that will give people adequate information. At the end of the say we are limited to reporting what the authorities hand to us,” she said. 

Some participants who were part of the discussion lamented that the pandemic has disrupted societal norms and has caused discrimination among people. 

“In our culture we are obliged to comfort our family members and neighbors when they are bereaved but of late we have not been able to do so. When we receive a funeral notification our minds race to think maybe the deceased succumbed to Covid-19,” said a participant. 

“Even when we are certain the person succumbed to other illnesses we cannot attend the funeral services because of the restrictions. We have also come to the point where discrimination is prevalent. We can’t interact with health workers the same way because we know they are always exposed to the virus. Our children can’t play with other children for fear of contracting the virus.”

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