Corona Emergency Fund
"This support has strengthened solidarity in conflict-affected communities"
"I had no money to buy anything and had to ask a friend for some rice and lentil soup for my children. I was so worried about them. In these desperate times, when it's hard to get a few meals a day, you thought of us and that has helped me tremendously."
This statement was made by Seema, one of the hundreds of conflict-affected women in Nepal, to Nagarik Aawaz, our partner organisation there. Seema was tortured during the 10-year civil war. Today, she is among the many women, often single mothers and women from marginalised groups, who struggle to support themselves and their families as day labourers while continuing to live with the psychological and physical consequences of the conflict. Even before the corona pandemic, survival was precarious. The pandemic and the associated curfews have now robbed them of their livelihood.
Seema is one of the participants of the peacebuilding projects we are implementing in Nepal with Nagarik Aawaz. In Nepal and in all the countries where we operate, the pandemic presented us and our partner organisations with difficult facts: given the realities on the ground, it would not be possible to carry out project activities as planned. The Women's Peace Tables had to be temporarily stopped in several countries. In this challenging situation, it was of great concern to us to strengthen our partners and to support the participants in their struggle for survival. At the same time, we wanted to live up to our understanding of peace: human security is a prerequisite for sustainable peace and also includes the right to a secure livelihood.
Focus on health and family
In solidarity with our partner organisations and project participants like Seema, we launched a Corona Emergency Fund in the spring. It ensured that they could focus on protecting their health and the survival of those closest to them during the pandemic, so that they could then concentrate on helping to build peace in their countries. Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, India, Nepal, the Philippines and Pakistan: in all these countries, the Emergency Fund was used to finance projects that made everyday life easier for women and their families, providing them with food and an income – in some places even beyond the end of the pandemic.
From food packages to sewing projects
In Nepal, women like Seema received food packages or cash as part of the cash transfer approach that lets recipients decide for themselves what they and their families need. In Pakistan, our partner organisation Tehrik-e-Niswan supported more than 350 women with food. In the DRC, our partner organisation Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes des Violences Sexuelles trained 18 people, mostly women, to raise awareness about hygiene and protection measures against Covid-19 in 18 neighbourhoods in Goma. In local markets, face masks and “payment baskets” on long poles were distributed to reduce contact between seller and customer.
In Kenya, 65 women-led and particularly disadvantaged households in the informal settlement of Kawangare in Nairobi received food packages with contents from the local market. This also supported the local market vendors. Due to the pandemic, the women had lost their mostly informal jobs as domestic helps or in companies in the low-wage segment in Nairobi. Our partner organisation Coalition for Peace in Africa (Copa) explained that this support gave these women and their families breathing space to reorient their lives in the pandemic and prevented the forced marriage of their daughters or ensuring their survival through prostitution.
In Afghanistan, we supported the Shuhada organisation, which distributed cash vouchers to 83 families to buy food at local markets in Kabul. In many of these families, widows and day labourers provide income for the average household of seven. They are women like Bubany, a widow who lost her job as a street sweeper during the lockdown and had to beg to keep herself and her six family members afloat. Food and hygiene kits were also distributed in Colombia. In addition, through our partner organisation COMUNITAR, our fund supported women who have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and who are working with COMUNITAR on our joint peacebuilding projects. Around 50 women affected by domestic violence received psychosocial and legal support. According to some estimates, violence against women in Colombia has increased by 70% during the pandemic.
Some projects financed by the fund focused on income and food security, as in India. The Stitching Hope project trained women in Delhi, Mumbai and the north of the country to sew reusable cloth sanitary towels, the sale of which provides them with an income. The classes were partly conducted via Whatsapp video to reach women during curfews. In an urban gardening project in Kathputli, a poor neighbourhood of Delhi inhabited mainly by dancers, street performers and rickshaw drivers, residents learn to grow vegetables in pots. Eighty households, mainly headed by women, receive food and can earn an income by selling surplus vegetables. These "Gardens of Hope" grow more than just vegetables.
Strengthening our partner organisations
It was also very important for our partner organisations to be able to use this emergency aid to strengthen the trust between them and the project participants. In Nepal, for instance, the trust of people in the various districts was increased towards the local “peace facilitators” who identified the women who were to receive food packages and cash. "With this emergency assistance, these women became trusted leaders in their communities," Nagarik Aawaz writes. "This support has strengthened and broadened solidarity in conflict-affected communities."