Since generations, women’s vital role as the anchors of society can never be doubted. It is unfortunate, however, that despite the important role they play, it is rarely acknowledged, celebrated, and recognized. I am tempted to think that the reason society rarely projects and celebrates this important contribution is a fear-driven need to silence these powerful beings and almost dim their light...never mind nature’s constant effort in reminding us just how women, girls, mothers are important. Stories have been written, songs sang, poems recited, but women all around the world have continued to suffer many dignity reaping incidents.
A couple of years ago, I participated in an global Wiki-Editathon. We mobilised women around the world to review profiles of women pioneers on Wikipedia and edit them. For sure, it wasn’t a pleasant surprise to discover just how many highly achieving women pioneers’ stories had never been captured on Wikipedia; athletes, political leaders, activists, engineers, technologists, educationists, environmentalists, artists, and many more pioneers were discovered to have no presence online, with few having their profiles underwritten.
Even today, women have continued to lead societies, albeit from behind the scenes, many going unrecognized. Perhaps COVID-19’s crisis, which has been likened by some to the 3rd World War, provides us a rare opportunity to rally together behind women and acknowledge them for the important role they continue to play in bringing the world back to normalcy and securing the lives of many. I dare to say, the role of women as caregivers has never been so well played in front of our very own eyes as now!
All around the world, women are taking the crucial role of care giving, preparing meals for their families, cleaning, and even nursing those who are infected by the virus. Never mind, that they too may be infected, but they still have to rise up and care for their affected family members. In the villages, women traders are supplying fresh food/groceries to community members, ensuring that everyone is fed and life continues as normal. Similarly in local town centres, women, who are mainly tailors are busy making masks and locally made soap in some countries, ensuring that everyone gains access to these valuable, almost life-saving items, at the most affordable prices. Infact, they are stepping in to fill gaps left by governments in provision of subsidized hand washing soap and masks! In the same spirit, women, who make over 70% of the healthcare workforce, mainly as nurses and support staff, are at the front line battling it out with COVID-19 and saving the lives of their countrymen, women, and children, without posing to think about how much they may be risking their lives.
The undying, unrelenting leadership of women across the world and in times of crisis can never be denied. It is no wonder, a video call between 4 young women, in Canada, SierraLeone, USA, and Kenya has led to an inspiring initiative, that is mobilising and organising across borders, by women for vulnerable young women and girls in some of Kenya’s most impoverished communities. Dubbed a “Meal & Book” Initiative, Roopa Somayaji, Fridah Ndoro, Clara Fallone, and Teresia Ndoti are mobilising, both online and offline, bringing together local women traders, tailors, liquid soap makers, technologists, journalists, corporate leaders, to support vulnerable girls at Moonlight Centre in Nairobi’s Dagoretti Corner.
Working together on a fundraising campaign, the women have rallied fellow women and men to donate to this cause, raising more than £2000 in a couple of days, with the ultimate target being £2970. The initiative aims to run over a period of 3-months, providing weekly food supplies, liquid soap, masks, sanitary pads and books to 45 girls, who have been identified as most needy during this lockdown period. The “Meal & Book” initiative is envisioned to bring a much needed food and educational nourishment to these girls, who are at risk of starvation due to COVID-19’s lockdown measures that left schools closed indefinitely (https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-meal-and-book-for-moonlight-girls-in-kenya)
A most inspiring initiative, it is touching to see the local liquid soap maker sit down to make and package the soap to be delivered to the girls and their families; the tailor sit down on her machine, cutting the pieces of cloth in to shape and sewing them together, with care and precision, ensuring that the girls who wear those masks will be confidently protected from Coronavirus; the cereals trader packing rice, beans, and maize flour, as well as making the final packages for distribution to girls; the volunteer who collects the packages and goes door-to-door delivering each of the packages to the girls’ door steps, bringing them some hope of conquering the pandemic and resuming school, sooner than later.Yet, on the other end, it is even more powerful to see, women reaching for their bank cards and donating to support groups of girls, every week for 3 months or more, while also contributing new ideas on how processes can be made more effective and efficient.
Indeed, the solidarity of women and their ability to come together in sisterhood to support their communities and individual members, continues to be seen all around the world. Many are innovatively creating ways to support families, friends and country-men, keeping hope alive and reassuring us of better times after COVID-19’s crisis. While it is sad to see some governments and agencies are rarely creating spaces for women to bring their voices to the table at this very crucial moment, it is very encouraging to see that some of the countries, which have done exemplary well in beating COVID-19 are women-led! How beautiful!
I wonder then, post COVID-19 crisis, shall we step back and truly recognize every woman for their incredible leadership and contribution during this period? Or shall we, as in the past, let it all pass, never to be known, heard or said, that women, in significant ways, led this fight and won?
Donate £10 towards a "Meal & Book" Initiative for vulnerable girls in Nairobi, Kenya