Around the world, the spread of COVID-19 is changing how civil society organizations (CSOs) are able to conduct their work and the global women’s movement in particular is facing extraordinary challenges. Organizations that amplify women’s voices and choices on issues ranging from personal status laws to reproductive health are now confronting unparalleled hurdles but are also finding innovative approaches to continue their work. Women’s Learning Partnership’s has mobilized to ensure that the needs of women are not overlooked in emergency responses to the pandemic. Our partners are adapting their programs and campaigns to address the evolving challenges by moving their events online, using messaging apps and social media to disseminate information, sensitizing journalists about the pandemic’s particular threats to women in the home and outside, raising funds for populations most at-risk, and even broadcasting messages by megaphone in communities where there is limited technology infrastructure and access to the web.
Read more about their activities below:
1. Utilizing Digital Platforms for Training and Advocacy Events
In-person training and advocacy events are a central component of the WLP Partnership's work. Rather than cancelling these events, many of our partners are moving them online. For instance, our partner in Jordan, SIGI-J, hosted a cultural event on Facebook Live on March 25. The hour and a half event featured a dialogue with a psychologist to discuss stressors and consequences of social distancing, and mental health strategies for dealing with the impact of COVID-19. Over 2,000 people viewed the event online in real-time, with hundreds actively participating in the dialogue through a Q and A in the Facebook Live comment section.
2. Connecting Vulnerable Groups to Support Services
One devastating result of shelter in place orders is the increased vulnerability of people experiencing domestic violence. To respond to this need and the financial strain that the health crisis is placing on many families, WLP’s partner in Malaysia, AWAM, has created counseling and legal services available online and by phone.
In Indonesia, our partner, WYDII, started a campaign to support women and children experiencing financial hardship in East Java, one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19. The funds raised by WYDII’s initiative directly support groups overlooked by traditional social protection systems.
3. Using Creative Dissemination for Messaging
With many people confined to their homes in isolation, several of our partners are using radio and other communications to advocate for greater government attention to the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. WLP partners in Brazil (CEPIA), Lebanon (CRTD-A), Malaysia (AWAM), and Turkey (KEDV) are developing communications and infographics in local languages and dialects, using multiple avenues and platforms to reach diverse constituencies. In Kyrgyzstan, WLP’s partner Bir Duino has moved its annual international human rights documentary film festival to an online format, allowing people from around the world to view the films and participate in discussion groups and workshops.
4. Building Capacity to Respond to the Changing Environment
Many of our partners are using online communication outlets like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Facebook Live to facilitate their normal workflow, and to host virtual events. On April 3, WLP held a Zoom tutorial for the staff of our partner organizations, and discussed ways to utilize Zoom as a platform to continue our collaboration on regional and international women’s rights campaigns. The skills-building also includes holding interactive and participatory meetings, and using features such as breakout rooms, polls, and shared white boards.
Gökçen Durutaş of KEDV, WLP’s partner in Turkey, shared words of wisdom with WLP team members on a recent call. “Now is the time for physical distancing, not social distancing,” she said. While social distancing may be the new normal, technology presents opportunities to connect, grow, and ensure that women's voices are not stifled and our work is not slowed by restrictions on physical gatherings.