Nichelle John* and her husband contracted COVID-19 in the southern Indian city of Bangalore last month, when she was six weeks pregnant.
One week after they were infected, her husband Shawn* died of the virus on May 11. He is 38 years old.
Two days later, Nischel miscarried and lost his unborn baby.
Although she has fully recovered from the viral disease, she said that her world has been broken.
“For the past two years, we have been trying to want a child, and when everything went well, the virus destroyed my entire world and took everything in my life,” she told Al Jazeera.
Like Nischel, thousands of Indian women have lost their husbands due to the coronavirus pandemic, and most of them are the only source of income in the family.
Before quitting his job nearly two years ago, Nichelle worked as a human resources expert for seven years.
Soon after her husband died, another reality hit her: she needed to find a job, and at this time the epidemic had caused huge unemployment in India and forced millions of people to lose their jobs.
Fortunately, a volunteer from COVID Women Help contacted her-a initiative The plan aims to empower women who have lost their partners due to the pandemic.
Less than a month after Shawn’s death, Nichelle found a job at a human resources solutions company with the help of COVID Women Help. She started work on June 1.
During the severe second wave of the COVID pandemic, India’s underfunded healthcare system was under tremendous pressure as it ravaged the country and hospitals ran out of medical oxygen, beds and medicines.
According to the Ministry of Health, the total number of cases in the country is 29.7 million, while the total number of deaths is 381,903. More than 200,000 deaths occurred during the second wave of the epidemic.
The Indian Economic Monitoring Center (CMIE), an economic think tank, stated that over 22 million people were unemployed in April and May due to the COVID lockdown.
CMIE stated that although women accounted for only 10.7% of the labor force, nearly 14% of them were unemployed in April. The think tank also estimated that as of November last year, 49% of total unemployment in India were women.
Anuradha Roy, 38, has a master’s degree in computer applications and works as a recruitment consultant for an IT company.
Earlier this year, for better job opportunities, she and her husband moved to Noida, a satellite city on the outskirts of New Delhi.
On May 5, the mothers of two children aged 5 and 10 lost their husbands due to COVID-19.
The entire burden of the family’s financial needs fell on her shoulders, and she registered with COVID Women Help to find a better job.
“I just want to take care of my children and give them the best chance. They are in grief and pain. It is not easy to lose a father at such an early stage,” Roy told Al Jazeera.
Nichelle said that Indian women are usually not the main working class in the family.
“They mostly rely on their husbands. When things like me happen suddenly, it’s a very difficult situation to deal with,” she said.
She said that COVID Women Help is a “very good initiative” not only for women in urban areas but also for women in rural areas, “because people don’t have much contact there.”
The project was the brainchild of 40-year-old Yudhvir Mor, who served as an Indian manager in Noida and vice president of a US software company.
Mor launched the website on May 11 and has accumulated 15,000 volunteers so far, all of whom use their contacts to help widows find jobs.
Approximately 6,000 women registered through the site and either found their first job or upgraded their careers.
COVID Women Help also cooperates with more than 200 companies. In just one month, the volunteers stated that they have helped more than 100 women find jobs in the corporate sector.
Moore said that once women register on the site, a verified volunteer will contact them, and the volunteer will learn about their education, work experience, location preferences and the type of work they want.
In the first phase of the program, volunteers provide four types of help-career consultation, resume writing, job recommendation and interview preparation.
Moore said that during the second wave of the pandemic, he lost three former colleagues and two best friends. “That was when reality hit me,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Do your little good deeds where you are; it is the combination of these beautiful bits and pieces that can conquer the world,” Moore quoted Nobel Prize winner, South African clergyman and theologian Desmond Tutu words.
Moore said he felt sad to see his compatriots struggling for medical oxygen and beds. “I can’t do anything for anyone. I want to help people. That’s why I came up with this idea.”
The volunteer-driven initiative has a tagline, #RiseAgain, which aims to help widows achieve financial stability.
Moore said their goal is to find jobs for 10,000 women in the next six months.
“We hope these women will rise again,” he said.
* Change names to protect personal identity.