· Personal Experience: This involves the psychological state, coping strategies, emotional experiences and attitude towards self.
· Family Experiences: involves any alterations in the family structure and functioning; quality of relationship with spouse, children, in-laws, parents, extended family members; and ways they handled changes in the relationship, if any.
· Professional Experiences: Refers to their experiences at job, i.e. The current working hours, earnings, work performance and relationship with colleagues.
· Social Experiences: The changes in quality of relationship with significant others (neighbours, relatives, colleagues and friends), managing the social relations and emotional or materialistic support provided by the significant others.
The study will use exploratory research design. The study will focus on capturing how COVID-19 has brought changes in women’s life, presenting their experience in their own words and meaning they make out of that experience. Therefore, Hermeneutic phenomenological approach will be used. Creswell & Creswell  has argued that Hermeneutic approach states that every phenomenon has many possible perspectives and understanding of a phenomenon is not about accurately describing or deriving pre-existing meaning but the meaning is created by trying to understand the phenomena.  So, focus is on contextuality and situatability. According to Gadamer , every person experiences the world in a way that is unique and personally meaningful which is rooted within the context of his or her individual history. The meaning of phenomena is generated through dialogue in social relations as words and stories are shared in common as an inter-state subjective discourse.
Assistance from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working for/with women and associations for women in Bengaluru, India will be sought for inviting women for participating in the study. Women who reside in Bengaluru and meets inclusion criteria will be recruited for the study.
Study population and the Sample
Women who are in the age group of 18 years to 60 years, residing in Bengaluru, Karnataka state, India will be the study population. The sample will be selected from a list of potential subjects given by the NGOs from Bengaluru, who work with women in difficult circumstances. To tap the women from general population, sample will be selected from Women’s Groups or Women’s Associations. The women will be selected randomly from the list given by the NGOs and the Women’s groups.
· Women in the age group of 18 years to 60 years;
· Women who give their consent to participate in the study;
· Women who are from different socio-economic status, married or single and staying with their family or alone;
· Women who are housewives or doing a paid job; and
· Women who can speak English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam & Kannada and give consent to participate.
Exclusion Criteria: During the interview (data collection), if a woman has difficulty to understand and answer the questions because of mental and/or health problems, then their experience will not be explored further.
Tentatively, a sample size of 60 is decided which will be reviewed after initial data collection.
i. Socio-demographic Data Sheet
It will have details such as age, education, gender, socio-economic status, marital status, genogram, details about family of origin, and if married, then details about family of procreation.
ii. Interview Guide
An interview will be conducted to collect information pertaining to impact of COVID-19 on various domains of women’s life. The guide will be prepared by the research team for in-depth interviews which will be based on literature review. The interview guide will use open-ended questions. The interviews will be conducted over phone. It will cover the key topics which will be explored with the respondents. The interview will focus on understanding the experiences of women after the start of COVID-19 Pandemic. The interview guide will be flexible in nature.
The interview guide will be pilot tested and further changes will be made as required.
Methods of Recruitment and Data Collection
Recruitment: NGOs working with women in difficult circumstances will be contacted, explained about the study, requested to inform eligible subjects about the study and to give a list of the interested subjects. The interested subjects, from the list given by the NGOs, will be selected following random sampling technique. Similarly, interested women from Women’s groups/associations will be selected. The identified subjects will be contacted. On the initial response to the call, confirmation will be made about the identity of the participant. After confirmation, the researcher will very briefly introduce himself/herself, inform the source from where the team got the contact number of the participant and the purpose for contacting (i.e. for recruitment of the interested participants). Following this, if the subject agrees to listen to further details, information about the study and the process of data collection will be explained in detail (however, if the woman is unwilling to give time to hear more details, the same shall be respected and the telephonic-call will be disconnected). In case, the subject gives another appointment, the researcher will contact them at that time. A soft copy of the ‘participant information sheet’ will be sent to those participants who have email-id or whats app or any other similar applications. To those who prefer hearing about the study from the researcher, explanation will be given over phone. Following this, oral consent will be taken from those subjects who are interested, which will be audio recorded. After taking the consent, an appointment for interview will be taken so that participant can ensure privacy (can be prepared and place themselves where there isn’t anyone). On the day of telephonic interview, the interviewer will first ensure privacy of the participants before going ahead with the interview. If the privacy is compromised, another appointment will be taken and interview will be conducted.
Telephonic Interview: The interview will be conducted over phone. The calls will be made from a number which will be used exclusively for this research purpose. The interview guide will be used to ask open ended questions which will give scope to the participant to describe their thoughts, feelings and emotions. The duration of the interview will be for 30 to 45 minutes. The researchers will place the calls using android phone which has inbuilt audio recorder through which the interviews will be recorded. After data analysis, if required a follow up interview will be made.
The steps that will be followed for data collection are shown in the figure 1
Phases of the Study
The study has four phases: Preparatory, Recruitment, Assessment and Data Analysis
i. Preparatory: Interview guide and socio-demographic schedule would be prepared. Interview guide would be given to experts and their suggestions would be incorporated. Then it will be pretested with few participants.
ii. Recruitment: Identified participants would be contacted and explained over phone regarding the nature of the study and oral informed consent would be obtained which will be audio recorded. Data would be collected and simultaneously analysed (details explained below in serial number 4).
iii. Assessment: Socio-demographic tool would be administered to eligible participants. Qualitative interviews would be conducted by following interview guide. Interview will be planned. The duration of the interview will be decided based on duration taken for interviews during the pilot testing of the tool. All interviews would be audio recorded as first-person narratives (in the language they speak) and transcribed.
iv. Data Analysis: The data collected will be recorded as first-person narratives (Kannada, Hindi, English, Tamil and Malyalam). The narratives will be translated into English by using software which will be cross verified by an expert who is fluent in both English and in regional languages (Kannada, Hindi, Tamil and Malyalam). Data will be analyzed through thematic content analysis. Focus will be on capturing participants’ essence as themes and presenting their experience in their own words and meaning they make out of that experience. All transcribed interview will be treated as texts and then analysis will be carried out by following the principles of hermeneutic circle which states that analysis should function at two levels: the descriptive one relating to the individual parts of the phenomenon and the interpretative one that places the parts within the whole of the experience , . The analysis will be carried out at the four stages. In the first stage, the transcripts will be read and re-read repeatedly to gain overall impression of the data. In the second stage, individual transcripts will be analyzed for key themes that emerged from the data. The third stage will involve reflection on the themes as a part of the whole, which is seeing inter-theme connectivity with overall experience of the phenomenon, with relevant literature and personal reflection as recorded by the researcher. In the final stage, the themes identified for each participant will be synthesized into a coherent picture of the phenomenon including quotations to illustrate each theme , .
The study has received clearance from institutional ethics committee [NIMHANS/25th IEC (BEH.SC.DIV.)/2020-21]. The study will consider voluntary nature of participation. Absence of financial benefits and gifts for participation will be clearly explained to the participants. The participant’s confidentiality will be ensured and maintained in all stages of the study. Collected data from the recordings will be stored in a password protected computer to which only research team (principal investigator and co-investigators) will have an access and it will be used for only research purpose. Once the audio of all the participants have been transcribed, recording will be deleted.
The participants will be ascertained freedom to withdraw from the study at any point of time.
In case of women in crisis/ circumstances needing help, the steps mentioned in the figure 2.
Although the study doesn’t focus on specifically exploring the COVID-19 status of women, if a woman expresses to be COVID-19 positive or a past history of COVID-19, psychological intervention will be provided as per WHO guidelines. If extensive interventions are needed, formal referrals will be made as per the protocol mentioned in figure 2. The overall process of the study is outlined in the figure 3.