This paper speaks of the women sanitation workers who are working at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pune city, an epicentre of rising COVID-19 cases in India. Prevailing caste and gendered norms of labour roles render the women doubly vulnerable. Within that context, we investigate how the women sanitation workers self-identify their health risks and needs. We document their internal negotiation of health risks, and their narratives pertaining to chronic health issues and deteriorating mental health arising from COVID-19-related uncertainty. We also probe on how their family roles and obligations intersect with their de-prioritisation of self-care. The investigation reveals narratives of lack of agency at work, invisibilised and endemic mental wellness issues, and neglect of personal well-being at the cost of centring the needs of the family.
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