Lessons in lockdown: Making life happen

Lessons in lockdown: Making life happen

Date: March 2, 2021
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By Sheistah Bundhoo

Port Louis, 1 March: 2020 was been a challenging year. The COVID-19 pandemic brought incessant news of new cases and deaths locally and internationally. The lockdown announced by the Prime Minister of Mauritius took effect from the 19 March 2020. We all had to adapt to the new normal. I started working from home.

Prior to the lockdown, I would wake up at 6 a.m., do my morning routine and drive for approximately an hour to the office. After work as from 17.30 till 20.30, I would attend my Masters class during the week and drive back. I have always been on the move. Finding myself confined at home for almost three months was hard.

Each morning, we use to have our daily zoom meeting for Gender Links Mauritius staff prior to the virtual call with all country offices staff. We had to to ensure that the residents of our shelter, Safe Haven Halfway Home, are well-equipped, safe and are following the sanitary regulations set in place.

Fortunately, we bought enough groceries for three months prior to the lockdown. In mid-February when people were speculating about potential COVID-19 cases in Mauritius, Anushka (my manager) initiated a working strategy for the shelter in case the pandemic should hit us locally. The first thing we did was to ensure that the residents had enough food and daily-use household items. We struggled to find sanitisers and face masks due to shortages. Our donors gave us gallons of hand sanitisers, packs of face masks and gloves: such a relief for us because these sanitary items would have cost a lot.

On the 24 March, the Prime Minister announced the introduction of Work Access Permits (WAP). to allow workers to travel to their workplace. I felt a sense of relief that I would finally be able to move out from home to go to work. At the same time, I was scared of the virus. I would get mixed feelings most of the time. The situation was uncertain. Unfortunately, the system put in place for the application of the WAP did not work. We finally got the WAP after the lockdown.

At some point I thought that “the end is near”. Mauritius is such a small island and I had this constant fear because it would take very little for us all to be infected due to our small population. When I read the daily news, the rising death toll made me more worried.

We made it a must at Safe Haven to communicate all creditable information regarding the pandemic to the residents of the shelter to counter the speculations and rumors going around on social media. We needed to educate our residents about hygiene protocols and give them creditable information.

During the same period, we rolled out training on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) funded by the National Social Inclusion Foundation (NSIF). We had to request an extension to the project time frame. Other pre-set training programmes had to be postponed. The SADC Protocol@Work regional summit had to be postponed as well. We had to ensure that we give clear and concise information to our partners regarding our activities.

We did a website audit, cleaned up website pages and worked on the photo gallery. These exercises allowed me to reflect on the importance of having all our data up-to-date. We spend the year collection data which I believe we need to curate and make full use of for our project’s visibility and credibility.

Lockdown was tough: I can say it over and over again. But it taught me a new routine. It allowed me time to reflect on myself. I started a roof top garden. I attended lectures online and did not miss out on any sessions. I noticed that my peers and relatives showed more compassion towards each other. We checked on each other more regularly than usual. As Idowu Koyenikan wrote: “You can’t let life happen to you; you have to make life happen.”

(Sheistah Bundhoo is Senior Finance and Programme Officer in Mauritius)

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