Celebrating women-responders this International Women’s Day

  • Date: 08/03/2023
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

This International Women’s Day, we are celebrating the women responding on the frontlines of emergencies and humanitarian crises.  

Women are hit hardest in times of crisis and by climate change. When a family faces hunger, it is women who eat least and last. When a government cuts back on public funding, it is often the services that serve women more than men that are cut first. Women end up carrying a double care burden when this happens. 

In humanitarian crises, ActionAid promotes women’s leadership and rights. We ensure women are empowered to make decisions about the needs of their community. We know that women bring vital skills, resources, and experience to humanitarian response. And when crises happen, they are often the first responders, taking risks and playing critical roles in the survival of families and communities. 

International Women’s Day 2023

This International Women’s Day, we want to say a collective #THANKYOU to all the women-responders who have played a vital role in recent, and historic, crises and emergencies. 

Women at the frontlines of our earthquake response in Syria 

Following the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria last month, women and girls were among those hardest hit. Their circumstances are becoming increasingly alarming.  

The protection of women and girls is a priority for ActionAid. Our local partner Violet is providing safe spaces for women and girls to shelter, mental health support for shock and trauma and care for pregnant women.  

Hala is a 23-year-old law student who works with Violet, ActionAid’s partner in Northwest Syria. She is currently working in a safe space that Violet set up for women and children affected by the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria in February. At the safe space they offer kid’s activities and mental health support for women. They also hold awareness sessions around the prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation, legal rights and life skills for women and girls. She told us: ‘Even if the situation is bad, it’s my duty to offer help to people. Because after 12 years of war, it’s our duty to help each other, in all difficult circumstances.’ 

Hala, Syria.

Women responding to the climate crisis 

East Africa is facing its worst food crisis in decades. The food crisis has been caused by multiple factors including the escalating effects of climate change with back-to-back droughts and locust plagues, the Covid-19 pandemic and protracted conflict. 

During climate disasters, women and girls are disproportionately affected by hunger, displacement, debt, and certain types of violence.  

Women are also at the heart of the response to the food crisis.  

Hibo is a Community Empowerment and Engagement Officer at ActionAid International Somaliland, an autonomous region in Somalia. She is passionate about women’s rights and is a trained human rights lawyer. She said: “Generally, women in Somaliland have a lot of responsibilities in life. That’s why they feel a lot of impact.” Women like Hibo work with communities to ensure all our response puts the safety and wellbeing of women and girls first. Hibo leads training sessions and immerses herself in the communities; gaining trust and respect.  

Hibo, Somaliland.

Women in Ukraine 

A year on from the invasion of Ukraine, women and girls affected are experiencing escalating threats of sexual and gender-based violence as the conflict continues. We have supported over 1,000,000 people in Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, and Romania, working with 28 local partners.  

One of ActionAid’s partner organisations, Girls, provides a safe space for survivors of gender-based violence. They offer psychosocial support for girls and women affected by the conflict in Ukraine.  

Yuliya Sporysh, founder of NGO Girls says ‘‘Having experienced the horrors of war, women and girls deserve care and protection. Women and their kids can heal and regain their independence in a secure environment like ours. While many of Ukraine’s war-affected women have survived acts of violence caused by the war, many of the women we work with have managed to escape domestic abuse.” 

We are continuing to expand to meet this growing need. Here Jara Henar, ActionAid’s migration and asylum expert, describes how we are expanding our work on the border of Ukraine and Moldova.  

Find out more about how you can support ActionAid to respond to emergencies.

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