COVID-19: Our Chance to Recognise Women's Vital Role in Society

Wamweru Imaya
Posted May 8, 2020 from Kenya
A "Meal & Book" packages
A cereals trader, Gladys Danson, at the front-line of making "A Meal&Book" packages to support vulnerable girls
Assorted items, maize flour, cooking oil, liquid soap, sanitary pads ready for packaging
Assorted items, maize flour, cooking oil, liquid soap, sanitary pads ready for packaging (1/3)

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

(https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-meal-and-book-for-moonlight-girls-in-kenya)

This story was submitted in response to Dispatches from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Comments 25

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Chi8629
May 08
May 08

Hello Beautiful,
Welcome back, Thank you for sharing, please stay safe.
Warm regards.
Chioma .

Wamweru Imaya
May 09
May 09

Thank you Chioma for reading. Please keep safe.

xx

Jill Langhus
May 09
May 09

Hello Wamweru,

How are you and your family doing, love? Wow! This is a great initiative. It's great to see that four women from different regions came together for this cause. I would love to see a follow up post to see how the 45 girls are faring. Good luck with your fundraiser, and please let us know how it goes:-)

XX

Wamweru Imaya
May 09
May 09

Hello Jill,

We are doing well, I can't wait to go home though as soon as there are flights. I have this acute allergic reaction that keeps coming once in a week, at least for 12 hours, where I sneeze to no end and my nose runs throughout. It then clears until another time. So, right now am really tired of being here, and I can't wait to be home in Kenya. I feel quite vulnerable right now...such stressful times!

I will definitely write another update on how this is going. We are in week 3, learning a lot on do's and don'ts of a response exercise such as this. It worries me though that a lot of people, including the girls are still not taking the COVID-19 thing seriously, so they wear masks loosely, insist on shaking hands and inviting the team that delivers packages into their homes. So we are brainstorming ideas on how to best sensitize them, our women, and others.

Also, if you are able to, please share the fundraising link with your network and donate too!

Blessings, Jill.

xxxx

Jill Langhus
May 09
May 09

Hello Dear,

Great to hear:-)

Oh! You're stuck somewhere? I didn't realize. I'm sorry to hear it, dear. Private message me if you need additional support:-) I hope you get a flight soon, and that you feel better physically and mentally, too.

That's not good:-( Hmm. I hope you come up with something. It's difficult to remember not to do it, for sure. Can they wear gloves, or then you need more money for those?

Done! I just shared it on FB. I just followed you on Twitter, but I don't see a post about it. I can share it from there, too, if you add it. Just let me know.

Take care, dear.

XX

Wamweru Imaya
May 15
May 15

Thank you so much, Jill for everything! Your sisterhood is so valuable, I don't know what we could do without it. Many blessings!

Jill Langhus
May 18
May 18

You're very welcome, Love:-)

Are you still stuck, or have you been able to return home yet, I hope?

Thank you! XX

Wamweru Imaya
Jun 23
Jun 23

No Jill. Not yet.Been quite stressing but there is hope soon.

Jill Langhus
Jun 24
Jun 24

Oh, dear:-( I'm glad.

May you able to return home swiftly and safely, dear. XX

Anita Shrestha
May 10
May 10

Thank u for sharing

Wamweru Imaya
May 15
May 15

Thank you for reading Anita. Best regards

Thelma obani 2020
May 10
May 10

Thanks for all you do. Keep winning

Wamweru Imaya
May 15
May 15

Thank you Thelma. Keep winning too dear. Blessings

Kabahenda
May 12
May 12

Hello Wamweru,

I am sorry that you are stuck somewhere! This must be very hard on you and your family, but at least you are safe inspite of the allergy.

Thank you for informing us about the noble initiative launched by four young women from four different countries. When women get together for a purpose, they are a force to reckon with!

Hang in there, the world will soon open up and you will be able to go home!
Keep up the good work.

Wamweru Imaya
May 15
May 15

Hello Kabahenda,

You are right. When we get together, great things happen. Thank you for reading.

I am better now. I am hoping to be home in a couple of weeks and I can definitely see light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you and I wish you well.

MUKABA ZAWADI
May 14
May 14

Thank you for sharing it is a good unitiative to us the women who make them, courage

Wamweru Imaya
May 15
May 15

Thank you dear Mukaba. We've got to do this for women and girls. Blessings on your journey

madison2308
May 15
May 15

Hello Wamweru,
Thank you for sharing! It is so good to hear about the great work these women are doing. I absolutely agree that more attention and appreciation needs to be drawn to the great contributions women make toward society. Like you said, I hope everyone takes a second to step back and think about the crucial role women are playing during this pandemic.

Wamweru Imaya
May 15
May 15

Hello Madison,

Thank you for reading. I hope you and yours are keeping well. Blessings

KieraCR
May 17
May 17

Wamweru,
You made some amazing points! I love that you are emphasizing all the responsibilities and challenges women take on all around the world. As you stated a lot of the things that women do go unmentioned and rarely acknowledged, I feel I have even fallen victim to this. I didn't think about all of the things women are specifically doing (aside from the already heavy responsibilities within a household) I didn't think of the number of women making these masks and soaps, e.t.c. It's refreshing and inspiring looking at all the amazing things women do and are capable of even knowing that it will more than likely go unnoticed. I appreciate this post so much! God bless Wamweru.

Wamweru Imaya
May 18
May 18

Dear Kiera,

I am happy to hear from you and that you read this piece. Yes, women's talent and skill has never been more useful, and sadly, the heroines of today may never be celebrated if past events are anything to go by. But you and I can choose to celebrate those in our lives and communities too.

I hope you are keeping safe dear sister, and I wish you well.

Berlotte I Antoine
May 20
May 20

Thank you for sharing!

Wamweru Imaya
Jun 23
Jun 23

Thank you for reading, Berlotte

BABARA ACHU
May 29
May 29

Thanks for sharing your story. This is a fact especially in the African traditional society where women are being relegated to the background.

Wamweru Imaya
Jun 23
Jun 23

So true, Barbara. Thank you for reading.