A group of women have banded together to support their community throughout 2020. More than 70 women have joined together to form the Indian Women’s Community.

The group used to gather at the local Hindu temple and worship but the Coronavirus lockdown in March forced them to be creative to continue their work.

Meeting over zoom the women quickly bonded over shared interests and they found the daily calls helped them overcome the difficulties of the national COVID-19 lockdown.

Shashi Sharma who works in the voluntary services and has three grown up children said:

“We would have gone into depression because of lockdown. The group has given us so much confidence. All stopped suddenly because of COVID and it became depressive for our elderly. So, we decided to start zoom calls and an interaction group. Now on a daily basis, we do an hour to two and a half hours of sessions. 

On our zoom get together’s we have Bollywood nights, yoga sessions. We are even having our Diwali party on Zoom.  It’s fantastic really. You don’t need your husband’s permission or need to travel”

Now a tightknit group, the women of all faiths are helping out their community by taking on projects to feed the homeless.  Using the facilities at Girlington Community Centre to cook and distribute hot meals, the ladies are distributing hundreds of meals on a daily basis.

It’s not just the homeless the IWCUK have been helping, during the half term, when they heard about the government rejecting a motion which was in response to a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford to provide free school meals for eligible children during term breaks they decided to step in and got together to raise money within their network and distribute meals.

As many of them are mothers and grandmothers the group believe they were duty bound to do their part in feeding the children during the break from school.

Bradford West constituency has seen a stark rise in child poverty between 2014 and 2019 according to data from End Child Poverty with some parts of the area seeing a 13 percent increase in child poverty after housing costs. Bradford East also saw a large increase of 10.5 per cent, with almost 47 per cent of children currently living in poverty after housing costs.

Archana Shukla who works for the Alzheimer’s Society and volunteers with the IWCUK told us the group started their school meals initiative on the first Monday, where they served 35 meals and a few days on and they were serving around 129 meals a day.

Indian Women’s Community helping feed the homeless and children

The striking thing about the group is that their impact on the community has led to local councillors referring families and those sleeping rough to get help.

Indu Dharni, one of the lead organisers of IWCUK told Asian Sunday: “We have no grants or funding. All donations from IWUK and people sending in donations by others. We are very proud of this group. There are over 70 ladies in the group and the interest in joining is growing. “

 The IWCUK’s work has also received support from the Bradford Hindu Council.

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“We are bonding more now than before. Developed new friendships found out about other skills. Sharing knowledge. Being on zoom has brought community together. In mandir (Hindu Tempe) it’s just hello hi and everyone comes in their own different times, but on Zoom everyone is there together. It’s really heartening and if it wasn’t for the zoom meetings and IWCUK I would be depressed.”

The Indian Women’s Community UK will continue to support each other and would welcome new members. They will continue to lift their spirits to limit the impact of the lockdown on their mental health.

For many the isolation of being at home was a struggle during March and April and members of the IWCUK know first-hand the impact being away from loved ones

They now want more women to join their group so they can uplift them over the coming weeks.

The NHS are recommending that during the lockdown the people of Bradford take time to look after themselves physically as well as mentally. They say a good night sleep, exercise, taking time out to do the things you enjoy and staying connected is important.

The IWCUK have plans to do many of these things as a group, but also they will be planning how they can continue to help the homeless and children during school holidays by growing their super community to take their work further and help more people.