Vignettes of Equity: A Glimpse into COVID-19 in Southeast Asia

Vignettes of Equity: A Glimpse into COVID-19 in Southeast Asia

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What a year 2020 has been! The COVID-19 pandemic has truly been an eye-opening and life-changing event in all of our lives. As the pandemic has unfolded, members of the 2019 cohort of EI Fellows took it upon themselves to reflect on what they have seen in their work and their communities and took note of how it negatively and disproportionately affects the vulnerable and marginalized populations. The Equity Initiative was established six years ago in response to social inequities that exist throughout Southeast Asia and China, and the insights of our EI Fellows, described in the following pages, highlight some of the ways that our vision of “a fairer, healthier, and more equitable Southeast Asia and China” is translated into action. Their individual and collaborative efforts bring to life our mission of “supporting the development of a thriving community of Equity Initiative Fellows and strategic partners that can influence meaningful systems change for health equity.”

As equity warriors, we cannot help but see the inequities this pandemic has exposed: while the pandemic is natural in origin, in the form of a virus, the impact to society, for the most part, is manmade, reflecting the ways that our societies and systems are structured. In the following collection of 11 essays, our EI Fellows document their thoughts and observations on the ways systems respond to the pandemic and the impact it has on the lives of the most vulnerable among us throughout the region. Despite differences in localities, customs, languages, and political and social structures, two messages came through clearly in all these stories: (1) the negative impacts are very much avoidable; and (2) we cannot afford to look the other way as our fellow human beings suffer if we want a better future for ourselves and for society.

On behalf of the staff and the Fellows of the Equity Initiative, we are proud to bring this collection of essays and stories to you. My EI colleagues and I appreciate the time and effort our Fellows devoted to bringing these vignettes to light. We extend a particular note of gratitude to Raudah Yunus and Gideon Lasco, who worked with contributors to bring each piece to final form and who wrote the introduction and conclusion, which link the individual vignettes to create a bigger picture of equity. Ana Santos, a 2018 Fellow, generously applied her talents to bring another layer of polish to each piece. If the Equity Initiative is to succeed, it will be through the spirit and dedication of our EI Fellows, which are embodied throughout these pages. Now, more than ever, we need our Fellows to continue to be vigilant in their role as equity warriors on behalf of all people throughout the region.


With immense gratitude and respect,
Le Nhan Phuong
Executive Director, The Equity Initiative