Stand with Women: why women’s rights are still in lockdown | ActionAid UK

Hilda, from Kenya, explores the devastating effect Covid-19 has had on women’s rights in her community - and how women are leading the change towards a new, safer world. Will you stand with her?

Hilda is part of a movement of women leading change in Kenya
Hilda is part of a movement of women leading change in Kenya

As a member of the Sauti ya Wanawake (Voice of Women) movement in Kenya, I know the very real challenges women and girls face when fighting for equality, for their rights, and for freedom from violence in my community.

Whether it’s due to sexual exploitation, FGM, or being denied an education, women and girls’ rights have always been in lockdown.

But since Covid-19 gripped Kenya - and the world - earlier this year, the fight for women’s rights has become even more critical

As families retreated behind closed doors, and as jobs and livelihoods disappeared overnight, a new pandemic was exposed in Kenya - and in communities across the globe. A hidden pandemic of unequal poverty and escalating domestic violence. 

It’s up to all of us to stand up against it. Will you Stand with Women?

The difference women's movements make

The Sauti ya Wanawake women’s movement was founded in Mombasa in 2001. Today, it operates in six counties, championing women’s issues and building women’s confidence to advocate for change.

In the most traditional areas of Kenya, 98% of girls are at risk of FGM, and domestic violence and child marriage are common.

But with the support and backing of ActionAid, we work to end rape and violence against women in our communities. We use radio talk shows to raise awareness about violence, and operate an SMS helpline that women can text if they need immediate help.

The network has done so much to empower women in my community. Before, we were routinely undermined by men.

When decisions were made in the family, women were not allowed to participate. We were not allowed to attend meetings. We were not free.

But now, women have a much stronger position in society. We feel empowered.

My role in the fight against inequality

As part of my role with the network, I support young girls who become pregnant. It’s my job - and my passion - to make sure girls know their pregnancy doesn’t mean the end of the lives.

I help them return to school, and also work with men in the community to change their attitudes towards women and girls. 

I feel so proud of this, and I love the work that I do.

Since the pandemic began, though, this work has become harder. We're supporting people over the phone and having meetings at home over the phone.

It may be harder, but the work is more important now than ever.

How women’s groups are leading the change

As is the case in most communities, violence against women here has worsened, and women have lost jobs and incomes overnight. The burden of the crisis has fallen on the poorest.

So, alongside our work supporting women at risk of violence, we decided it was crucial to fight Covid-19 head-on

We’ve been organising road shows in major centres across the country, where we demonstrate handwashing and hygiene techniques, teach people about social distancing and raise awareness about coronavirus symptoms. 

We’ve also campaigned for the government to distribute more water tanks and soap for handwashing, and we’ve been mapping out vulnerable households for water and food distributions. 

In some areas, misinformation about the virus has been a huge problem, so I’ve been making sure people know the dangers, and that by protecting themselves, they’re protecting others, too. 

Please stand with women 

Like many children, mine are still at home since the closure of schools. And like many families, my economic situation is much worse since the start of the pandemic. 

But, along with other members of the Sauti network, I’ll keep aiming higher and working towards a better life for everyone. 

At this critical time, it’s never been more important that we stand together. It’s never been more important to stand with women

How you can help

With support from ActionAid, women like Hilda have been at the forefront of the Covid-19 response in many of the world’s poorest countries.

In the face of this terrible pandemic and its aftermath, we must stand with women to support their leadership towards change.

Your gift of just £3 a month could help fund a women’s group like Hilda’s, to build a better world beyond coronavirus. Please donate now.

Give a gift to stand with women

Footnotes