ActionAid is adapting its programmes to ensure the most vulnerable aren’t left behind as it responds to Covid-19 worldwide.
The whole world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic. And the shadow-pandemic, which has seen all types of violence against women and girls intensify.
ActionAid is working with women who were already vulnerable to violence and exclusion. This work is part of our Women’s Rights Programme funded by Irish Aid. In this programme we use an innovative approach called ‘Behaviour Change’ which was developed by the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London (UCL) to tackle health related issues. This is the first time it has been used in tackling gender inequality. UCL is working with ActionAid on covid-19 prevention within the programme.
Below three of our staff in Nepal, Kenya and Ethiopia share their experience of the pandemic. And how they are adapting to help the most vulnerable.
Kopila Chaulagain lives in Parsa District in Nepal, with her husband and son. She is a Programme Coordinator with ActionAid.
“The pandemic has hit all wage earners the hardest, especially those working in the transport sector, street vendors, building workers, and others working class people. Women and adolescents have also been affected by violence as a result of the pandemic.”
“I met the families who are facing the worst conditions during this pandemic. One of my neighbours’ source of income was beauty parlour and rickshaw. During the lockdown, both sources of income were completely cut off. After a few days of running out of savings, they had a hard time to have a proper meal day. We supported them with vegetables, rice, lentil, flour. They have three children and had to face a very bad situation as the rickshaw could not run even after the lockdown was a little easier and the beauty parlour was not allowed to open. They were living in a rented house and their family was devastated when the landlord did not even give them a discount. This is just an example. There are many families facing bad situation like this.”
“We are conducting programmes for the economic empowerment of women and ending sexual harassment. Pregnant and lactating women have been affected during the pandemic so we have supported them with nutritious food and safety kits. We have also changed other activities and to focus on coronavirus response. We have planned to carry out activities including communication materials required for protection from impact and installing handwashing stalls.”
Caroline Nkirote is Women’s Rights Coordinator with ActionAid Kenya. She lives in a town in Kenya called Voi that is in Taita Taveta county.
“Women living in poverty and exclusion have been the most affected by the pandemic in my view. This is because women are the primary caregivers in the family setting. There was increased pressure on the family basket since schools were closed meaning children were home throughout the day and in many cases husbands who worked in towns were back home after the companies they worked for closed as a result of Covid 19. This meant more water and food were required by the household. In addition, there was scarcity of water in the community, hence women had to walk longer distances in search of water exposing them to violence.”
“Domestic violence was also reported to be on an increase and majority of those affected were women. Access to medical services like maternity health care was a challenge to marginalised communities. Especially during the times there was containment measures that restricted movement imposed by the government. Many women in need of medical services avoided going to hospital in fear of Covid 19 hence putting them at health risks. Initially, community health workers were unable to support mothers to be during curfew hours for fear of arrest and harassment from law enforcers. Access to sanitary towels was a challenge too, as a result of competing demands at the household level. Before Covid 19, school going girls could access the sanitary towels from schools.”
“I met a woman called Matilda,* who used to work as a domestic worker in Mombasa. Following the Covid 19 outbreak, the employer laid her off and was forced to stay in her small rented house in the city barely surviving and couldn’t travel home since there was travel restrictions. The landlord threw her out and she was forced to seek refuge temporary at her friends house. As soon as travel restrictions were lifted she packed up her bags and travelled to the village. She had no rent to pay at the end of the month but found herself struggling to even eat. She could send her mother some money when she worked but with no income she was not able to support her mother anymore. The family was in dire need of food and benefited from cash transfers supported by ActionAid Ireland.”
“Cash transfer funds were funded by Irish Aid and gave us an opportunity to help people deal with the pandemic in an innovative way. These were done in three instalments that were dependent on each other. Each beneficiary committed to areas in their lives they would change. Some started poultry farming while others started small scale farming.”
Mihret Bekete is Programme Coordinator with ActionAid Ethiopia. She lives in Debre Tabor town of Amhara Regional state, in mountainous northern Ethiopia.
“I met a group of women who are members of a women’s saving and credit cooperative which is established with support from ActionAid. Their petty trade was affected by high inflation and decreased customers demand due to the pandemic, so for the first time they requested a loan repayment extension. These women live in poverty, are aged between 30 and 50, and have families. And they were unable to meet the basic needs of their family’s because of the pandemic.”
“As part of our response to the pandemic, we purchased and provided free hand contact foot pedal handwash to the institutions. We are starting cash support. And we are providing Covid-19 awareness information and training to communities.”
ActionAid is responding to the pandemic caused by Covid-19 worldwide.