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ActionAid is calling for a Covid-19 vaccine to be made freely available to all, in all countries, regardless of wealth or privilege. Principles of solidarity and justice are the only way out of the Covid-19 nightmare.

A globally accessible and affordable Covid-19 vaccine is in the interests of all humanity. It is the only way to end the pandemic for good.

But if vaccines are only available to wealthy individuals and rich nations, the coronavirus pandemic will continue to tear societies apart for years to come.

That’s why ActionAid is calling for a vaccine to be made freely available to all, in all countries, regardless of wealth or privilege. 

The call for a People’s Vaccine

We are supporting calls for a People’s Vaccine. This means the vaccine and all treatments, diagnostics, and other technologies to tackle the pandemic must provide for equitable access and fair distribution, and be produced rapidly at scale.

Available vaccine doses must be distributed equitably among all countries, including Least Developed Countries.

Within individual countries, there should also be fair distribution of vaccines according to need, with care workers and medically vulnerable populations first in line. 

Women and girls must have access to the vaccine

If Covid-19 medicines or vaccines are rationed, rather than widely available, women and girls will lose out. 

Research shows that households often prioritise the needs of male family members when essential services like healthcare and education are not affordable. 

With women at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, making up 70% of the global health care force, their access to a vaccine must be a priority.1

Public health services must be properly funded

The vaccine will only be accessible to all if there are adequate health workers and infrastructure to roll it out

As shown in ActionAid’s “Who Cares” report,2 public health systems have been underfunded for a generation due to austerity policies and rigged tax rules that allow big companies – including pharmaceutical giants who stand to make enormous profits from Covid-19 – to avoid paying their fair share. 

Tax reform and debt cancellation are urgently needed to refinance public health systems worldwide, so that everyone receives the health care and medicines they need.

Civil society monitoring is crucial

In many countries North and South, efforts to fight Covid-19 have been marred by corruption and discrimination

To ensure special interests don’t gain control of vaccine distribution, strong public oversight locally, nationally and globally is crucial, with an active role for civil society organisations.

Leave no one behind

Special efforts must be made to ensure that vaccines are available to migrants and refugees, stateless people, and people living in countries facing sanctions.

The vaccine must be produced rapidly, at scale

A single pharmaceutical company does not have the capacity to make enough vaccines to meet the world’s needs. 

The mass production needed to ensure a universal and timely vaccine requires a total shift in pharmaceutical industry practices. Companies must collaborate and share knowledge and patents. Generic production by public health systems should be encouraged where possible. 

International cooperation is crucial to develop and distribute vaccines at the huge scale needed to guarantee equitable and universal access. 

For a start, the rich world must urgently provide the missing $4.5bn needed to get vaccination efforts underway in developing countries in 2021.

To end this devastating pandemic, we must put the interests of humanity ahead of the interests of large corporations, big pharma or single governments. 

Principles of solidarity and justice are the only way out of the Covid-19 nightmare. 

How you can help

Please share this blog, and support the call for a People’s Vaccine that is freely available for all, in all countries, regardless of wealth or privilege

  • 1. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/311314/WHO-HIS-HWF-Gender-WP1-2019.1-eng.pdf
  • 2. https://actionaid.org/publications/2020/who-cares-future-finance-gender-responsive-public-services

At the age of 75, John is taking on a new challenge during the coronavirus pandemic, as he (and dog Rosie) are running 40 marathons to raise money for ActionAid.

The coronavirus lockdown hasn't been easy for any of us. And from the cancellation of the London Marathon, to the closure of gyms and leisure centres, the 'new normal' has left many of us struggling to stay fit and active. 

But one incredible ActionAid supporter (and his dog, Rosie) have taken matters into their own hands. 

John is aiming to run a staggering 40 marathons during the period of lockdowns this year.

Why John's taking on a 40-marathon challenge

It's not the first time John has run a marathon to raise money for ActionAid. In fact, he's been running one every year since he was aged 60 - that's 15 years.

But this year's challenge had to be different.

John has already raised an incredible £1,372, He plans to keep on going in support of those struggling in poorer countries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"The need is just as great overseas as here," he said.

Some people don’t have any means to wash their hands and certainly no means of social distancing. Women and children are subject to violence and at risk of assault. 

"We are all living in a new world and many of us terrified by the pandemic. Especially those of us who are older with health conditions. 

"We are so lucky to have our precious NHS to care for us in our darkest times. 

"So I am raising money for the efforts in the Global South to give them a chance to cope with the pandemic."

Donate to John's fundraiser

How he'll do it

John will be running his marathons in all weathers, within the government's lockdown guidelines - but he won't have to go it alone, as Rosie the dog will join him every step of the way.

 

John wears his medal from completing the Liverpool marathon in 2018 - his home city and first love.

John has now completed nearly 30 marathons already. He said, "I am finding it quite challenging and very tiring but exciting." 

Best of luck to John and Rosie - and thank you for your amazing support!

How you can fundraise during lockdown

If you'd like to support John's incredible 40-marathon challenge, please donate to his fundraiser here

And if you've been inspired to take up your own challenge, there are lots of ways to get involved - from running to baking to biking! Set up your JustGiving page to get started!

Start your own challenge

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?

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

Farah Nazeer

Deputy Director of Advocacy

We identify four critical pillars that, if adopted by the FCDO, will ensure the UK delivers on its commitment to support women and girls.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) emerges at a watershed moment for women and girls’ rights.

Covid-19 (and the violence it has unleashed against women and girls), the climate emergency and humanitarian crises have exposed the entrenched legacies of gender inequality, leading to disproportionate impacts on women and girls.  

The establishment of the FCDO marks a crossroads for UK foreign policy and its internationalist ambitions.

On the one hand, the combined expertise of DFID and FCO leaves the new FCDO well-equipped to lead on robust policy for a sustainable, evidence-based approach to international development with gender equality at its heart.

Alternatively, the Government could choose to move away from this long-standing commitment – diminish the proportion of UK aid going to directly to women and girls, and narrow its scope on women’s rights – to the detriment of the world’s poorest and most marginalised women and girls.  

The UK has improved its development trends significantly but still has a way to go – with most aid still not seeking to address gender equality, relatively small amounts of aid directly targeting gender equality and little aid going to women’s rights organisations (WROs).  

We have analysed 10 years of the UK’s aid spend against its commitments on gender equality, and combined this with our technical expertise from working with women and girls on the frontline, to identify four critical pillars that, if adopted by the FCDO, will ensure the UK delivers on its commitment to support women and girls.

Pillar 1: Implement the Strategic Vision on Gender Equality across the FCDO

DFID’s highly regarded 2030 Strategic Vision on Gender Equality (SVGE)1 calls on the UK Government and partners to recognise the overlapping, entrenched barriers and exclusions that women and girls face in realising their rights.

The SVGE should be mainstreamed across the FCDO, including in diplomatic missions and in humanitarian work, to create a step change from piecemeal disbursement and programming on gender equality.

This should be followed by: refreshing other critical strategies including the Economic Development Strategy to reflect women’s rights; incorporating quality indicators; and ring-fenced funding for gender equality

Pillar 2: Develop meaningful partnerships with local actors

Strong partnerships with local actors, including with women-led organisations and WROs, are integral to ensuring that all UK aid is effective and delivers value for money.  

As a Grand Bargain2 signatory, the UK is committed to delivering on the ‘localisation agenda’.

The FCDO should recognise the opportunity of working with local NGOs in both humanitarian and development contexts. In our experience, funding to local actors is more cost-effective and more empowering to people and economies.

Yet, local leadership is consistently undervalued, lacking political and financial support.

The FCDO with its development know-how and diplomatic reach can work to reverse this trend through specific interventions including flexible and ring-fenced funding models and building strong in-country partnerships with local actors.  

Pillar 3: Step up efforts to end all forms of violence against women and girls

It is critical that the UK does not renege on its position as a global leader on preventing and addressing violence against women and girls (VAWG).

From dedicated aid to VAWG prevention and response programmes, to the ground-breaking ‘What Works Initiative’, the UK’s contribution should not be understated.

We urge the FCDO to continue to break ground on this through dedicated funding, maintaining levels of technical expertise and re-affirming the UK’s commitment to the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies.3 

Pillar 4: Scrutinise UK aid spend in partnership with WROs

We are reassured by the Foreign Secretary’s commitment to maintain the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI).

However, there is more the UK can do to truly understand the impact of UK aid, for example, through working with women’s rights organisations to assess impact, as well as ensuring full parliamentary scrutiny of the UK’s aid budget through the creation of a dedicated select committee. 

Never has the need to recognise women’s rights and ending violence against women and girls been more critical.  

The UN Secretary General has highlighted how Covid-19 has unmasked “a shadow pandemic” of violence against women and girls.

Across the world, there are reports of 60-775% increase in calls to domestic violence helplines,4 whilst at the same time the pandemic has forced a recognition of the central role played by local organisations as ‘first responders’, with WROs and women-led organisations often best placed to first access and then understand and address the needs of women and girls.  

Our recommendation to the new FCDO

As the new FCDO takes its place on the national and international stage, we urge that it adopts and embeds these four pillars into its operations, and use its leverage in international fora to advance gender equality – which we believe sits at the core of what it means to be a truly global Britain.

For more information, see our full 4-page briefing, with detailed recommendations.

Read the full briefing

  • 1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dfid-strategic-vision-for-gender-equality-her-potential-our-future
  • 2. https://interagencystandingcommittee.org/grand-bargain
  • 3. https://www.calltoactiongbv.com/
  • 4. https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/WLO-Covid19-Joint%20Agency%20Policy%20Brief.pdf

Claudia Dias is a Woman's Rights Advisor at ActionAid Brazil who contracted Covid-19. Here she talks about her experience and how coronavirus has gripped Brazil, a global epicentre of the pandemic.

At the end of February, as spring slowly seeped in and temperatures started rising in Rio de Janeiro where I live, little did I know the world was about to come to a grinding halt.

Coronavirus was spreading around the globe and we had all been watching the news, but we were still not sure if and how much it would affect my country, Brazil. We started having conversations with other ActionAid offices and began to prepare for the worst.

How the coronavirus outbreak started in Brazil

On March 3, Brazil recorded its first two official cases. It was two people who had travelled to Italy and back to São Paulo in February who had started showing flu-like symptoms.

It was early days, but we knew the virus spread from human contact and was highly infectious.

We knew immediately that this would be a disaster in the favelas - the densely packed urban neighbourhoods - where several people live in the same house, often in one-room buildings which are just a few square metres. 

The thing that most concerns me is that in the most vulnerable areas like the favelas and rural areas people are having issues with lack of water, sanitation, food and hygiene kits."

I had also heard how mandatory quarantines were making lives hard for those who rely on labour and other informal work, and horror stories of domestic violence cases around the world.

And before you know it, we were getting local reports of how people here were struggling to keep their jobs, to earn enough to feed their families and hearing reports of rising domestic abuse in houses under lockdown.

The thing that most concerns me is that in the most vulnerable areas, like the favelas and rural countryside, people are having issues due to lack of water, sanitation, food and hygiene kits.

Helping local people survive the Covid-19 pandemic

In Brazil, we adopted social isolation from early March. The government gave people an emergency stipend payment, but there was still a lack of money to buy groceries, a lack of money to buy hygiene kits, and lack of space for people to isolate themselves from others.

But within the last few months, we have seen several, positive social movements steadily brewing up from the favelas."

Fake news has also spread like wildfire in parts of the country. When the government started its stipend scheme, there was a lot of false information about how to access this kind of money. Hoaxers were creating virtual lines for people to call into, using fake apps, and asking for subscriptions from people and taking their details. 

We also heard a lot of misinformation that people don't have to use masks, that everybody's infected and masks won't work. Or how we can just take a certain drug to avoid getting Covid-19.

But within the last few months, we have seen several, positive social movements steadily brewing up from the favelas.

From civil society to members of the community, everyone has been trying to distribute information by sending WhatsApp messages and using their social platforms to try to share reliable information about how to prevent the spread of and contain the coronavirus. 

We are talking to people about how they can avoid getting Covid-19 even when they are living in a house with ten people to a room; how to wash their hands; and how to reach out for help. 

The community members are also giving people food and hygiene kits. I know it's not much, but it's important work that they are doing and we at ActionAid are supporting these movements to distribute this reliable information and deliver food and hygiene kits. 

My fear is that people might get infected and won't have access to public services or the health system.

Our health system was already overloaded with people before the pandemic. And now with the outbreak, they will not able to treat everyone properly.

When I contracted the Covid-19 disease

In May, I was infected with coronavirus and fell severely ill.

I started noticing symptoms that were just like the regular flu. I had a cough, a fever, my throat was sore and aching. I thought it as some kind of an allergic reaction. But the next day the fever rose higher, and during a team meeting my ears started aching and my eyes turned red within minutes, just like a bad case of conjunctivitis.

At the height of my disease, I wasn't afraid. I didn't feel scared because I had information which is the key to overcome this disease."

It was horrible and I was feeling a bit worried. I reached out to my doctors and had a video appointment with the physician and she told me to get tested immediately.  She asked me to keep an eye on my symptoms and to report shortness of breath or pain.

The next day, my condition worsened. I started feeling nauseous, had chest pain, I couldn't breathe easily and had diarrhoea.

At the height of my disease, I wasn't afraid. I didn't feel scared because I had information which is the key to overcome this disease. 

I stayed home for a month to avoid contact with other people. I took sick leave and ActionAid helped me a lot. I have a great team and my boss and my co-workers were very supportive.

Hope for the future of Brazil

In Rio de Janeiro, our government and the mayor of the city have decided to open up the stores and to open up the economy. 

Brazil is now considered one of the main epicentres of Covid-19 and it makes me really sad that a huge majority of people will never have access to the healthcare they need.

But I have hope, that after all of this, we can change as humankind, that we can look at each other differently, that we start fighting strongly for a world with no inequalities."

I had the harshest of Covid-19 symptoms, but I was able to recover because I was able to take sick leave and get help from doctors, my family, my husband and my co-workers. 

I was lucky to have health insurance, but the most marginalised people suffering from Covid-19 can't afford basic healthcare and struggle to get access to our health system and don't have this kind of help, support and information.

These people are on the news every day, telling their stories - tragic stories of people that reached out for help and couldn’t get the support they needed in time, and died while waiting to be tested.

Two weeks ago, my best friend's father died of Covid-19 and I don't want any more people dying. 

But I have hope, that after all of this we can change as humankind, that we can look at each other differently, that we start fighting strongly for a world with no inequalities - for a world where people can get the treatment that they need through a public, universal, and free healthcare system.

There are a lot of people in the streets right now protesting and I'm very hopeful that we can fight this virus.

More than ever, I feel the urge to help others because one lesson that we have learned from this pandemic is that we have to help others.

I want us to strive to survive and to overcome this disease united as one people, as one nation, fighting against coronavirus. 

How you can help

ActionAid is on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis helping to save lives as the pandemic spreads through the world’s poorest countries.

We are distributing life-saving advice, health information and hygiene kits to vulnerable communities.

We are also distributing food packages and essential supplies, working to stop violence before it happens, and provide support to women and girls who are affected.

Please donate now to help us reach people in urgent need.

 

Support our Coronavirus Appeal

Explore our brand new gifts this summer, and you'll be helping to stop the spread of coronavirus and protect vulnerable communities around the world. 

Social distancing, staycations, masks… summer 2020 is unlike any other. And unfortunately, although we’ve seen some restrictions lifted in the UK, it’s clear the coronavirus crisis is still far from over. 

But it’s not all bad! Because we’ve just added three new incredible gifts to our Gifts in Action collection, so you can make a real difference during these challenging times. 

Our brand new gifts help provide essential equipment for families around the world to stop the spread of coronavirus, and save lives. So whether it’s a birthday present, a thank you gift or simply a summer treat, you’ll know your gift is changing the lives of people in need right now. 

1. Give a quarantine kit and help protect a family (£14)

Monalisa, a volunteer helping ActionAid to distribute essential aid in Kathmandu, Nepal

For just £14, our quarantine kit gift is a budget-friendly way to show your friends and family just how much you care. 

Containing essentials like hand sanitiser, soap, a digital thermometer and masks, ActionAid quarantine kits are being distributed in some of the world’s poorest communities to help stop the spread of Covid-19, and save lives. 

Buy a quarantine kit gift

2. Help to equip frontline heroes with our PPE gift (£40)

Frontline ActionAid workers distribute essentials, including sanitary pads, to women and girls in Ghana

Personal Protective Equipment can be the crucial difference that allows ActionAid’s frontline workers to keep safely supporting people throughout this crisis. 

So when you buy a PPE gift you can show a friend or family member how much you love them - *and* show your appreciation for frontline heroes around the world. 

Buy a PPE gift

3. Give the gift of vital WASH supplies (£40)

Distributions of soap and other hygiene items in the occupied Palestinian territory

Without clean running water, families all over the world are struggling to prevent the spread of Covid-19. But our WASH gift supplies water purification tablets, soap, a water filter and bucket to a family who needs it. 

So you can be sure you’re supporting people with the essentials they really need.

Buy a WASH kit gift

Find more gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and every occasion

Our full Gifts in Action collection has something for everyone - from our ever-popular goat gifts to our buzz-worthy beekeeping presents.

Each comes with a stunning greetings card (you can personalise your message!) and a description of how the gift will support women and girls.

Whichever you choose, you’ll be making a huge difference to the lives of women and girls living in poverty around the world.

So from everyone here at ActionAid, thank you.

Shop all gifts

Niki Ignatiou

Humanitarian Policy Specialist

Four years on since the first Grand Bargain meeting, what has changed, and what needs to happen next on the road to 2021?

Last week marked the fourth anniversary of the Grand Bargain Annual meeting. It was the main follow-up process where agencies, donors and INGO signatories of the Grand Bargain met virtually to assess progress in the transformative workstreams, and discuss next steps. 

But four years since the Grand Bargain agreement, what has changed? And what more needs to happen on the road to 2021?

What is the Grand Bargain? 

At the World Humanitarian Summit in 20161, world leaders and humanitarian agencies committed to scale up support for locally-led humanitarian action.

Through this, the Grand Bargain was established as a key commitment and major driver of the effort by humanitarian agencies to reform how they work, with an aim to reduce the humanitarian funding gap and improve the efficiency and delivery of aid.

What has changed within the last four years?

As we dashed online in the new reality of virtual meetings for the fourth annual meeting – has the sector been true to its promises?  

Without doubt, the Grand Bargain is a unique platform, and has taken steps towards wider impacts in the humanitarian response promoting a more cohesive and collaborative approach in the international humanitarian aid sector.

The fourth annual meeting continues to show its value as a platform and space to discuss and take onwards further action, with this year’s agenda looking at the progress towards a transformative Grand Bargain in May 2021, examining workstreams such as localisation, use of cash, and transparency of funding.

The progress made in certain workstreams is creating systemic shifts in policy and practice and positive normative guidance in areas such as cash programming, where the volume of cash programming in humanitarian settings has doubled since 2016, reaching $5.6 billion by the end of 2019.2 

In the workstream of localisation, funding to local actors slowly increases, with more signatories meeting the target of 25% of funding to local actors being as direct as possible.3 And improvement in capacity to better measure progress against funding flow targets can be witnessed.   

The quality of joint intersectoral analysis has improved, with more consistent approaches to local participation within humanitarian country and multi-year planning, resulting in significantly more joined-up and strategic humanitarian and development programming in many countries.

However, even with these changes, the ongoing plans to reform the humanitarian system still fail to reach grassroots women’s rights organisations, or to be felt by women affected by crises.

What more needs to be done on the road to 2021?

The fast-paced nature of the Covid-19 response has further exposed gaps between Grand Bargain policy-level commitments and implementation on the ground; as well as the need to scale up investments in a comprehensive approach that covers crisis prevention, response, and resilience.

Local women’s organisations continue to face barriers that challenge their meaningful participation in humanitarian planning and other decision-making spaces."

This crisis has highlighted the critical role of local organisations, as restrictions on movement to and within countries imposed around the world indicate the clear value added of local and national organisations to take the lead in emergency response.

Nevertheless, the recognition of women's agency and leadership remains largely inadequate. 

While women and local women’s organisations play a critical role in helping affected communities cope and adapt to crises, local women’s organisations continue to face barriers that challenge their meaningful participation in humanitarian planning and other decision-making spaces.

Many Grand Bargain Meetings, including the annual review meeting last week, remain closed to local and women-led organisation who could offer real experiences and new perspectives.

We must enable women to lead on recovery plans

Particularly in the context of Covid-19, we must become better at giving space and enabling an environment to promote local women’s participation in global meetings – especially when the conversations discussed in these meetings affect them directly.

Local women should have the right to speak out on the decisions that affect their lives."

If we want to see meaningful change in the humanitarian system we must enable women to participate in decisions and lead on the recovery plans. 

Local women should have the right to speak out on the decisions that affect their lives – and should be granted full and equal participation to do so.

Our experience shows that women are uniquely positioned to act as first responders - bringing invaluable contextual knowledge, skills, networks, and resources during disasters.

This is evident in the Covid-19 response. Local women organisations have adapted, and invested in strategies to continue to provide life-saving humanitarian response under the new Covid-19 circumstances – and so too we must consider how to best engage with them in the realities of online communications and new ways of working.

Against this rapidly changing global context, Grand Bargain signatories must pave the way for sustainable recovery efforts that are grounded in gender transformative programming, in a way that better recognises, and addresses the needs of women and girls.

Gender and power should be at the heart of the Grand Bargain

ActionAid supports the continuation of the Grand Bargain post-2021.

However, the agreement needs to have a renewed form and approach that places gender and power at the centre of the analysis of political obstacles that continue to stall progress in some areas.

The Grand Bargain moving forward needs to be accountable at global and local level to affected populations in crisis, women, young people, and their organisations, with a strong commitment to support women’s and girls’ leadership from the national level.

And it must work with networks such as the Feminist Humanitarian Network4 that brings together a collective of women leaders committed to a transformed humanitarian system that promotes a feminist humanitarian agenda.

It must be locally owned, and transparent in terms of how increased voice and funding of local organisations, as well as other agreed transformations, are progressing.

Donors need to adapt to a more flexible and harmonised approach to requirements on gender and women’s participation. 

The Grand Bargain system must work for those most affected

As we move forward, adaptation is key. Gender considerations and the empowerment of women and girls needs to be mainstreamed within all commitments in the Grand Bargain and should be a primary focus for post-2021.

So rarely does the current humanitarian system ask – how does this system work for those most affected?

It is time for that to change.

We must open the space and hear from those directly affected. We must be able to learn, and provide the opportunities for local women rights organisations to be heard, in order for transformative action to take place.

The power of women-led response: our latest brief

Shifting power to women makes a difference, from the very top to the bottom.

Our latest brief Creating lasting impact: The power of women-led localised response to Covid-19 makes a series of practical recommendations for Covid-19 response efforts to be driven by local women, as decision makers and partners, will:

  • Support rapid and contextually relevant efforts to curb the spread and impact of Covid-19, reaching families and communities at scale.
  • Ensure the gendered impact of Covid-19 is addressed and the rights of women and girls are protected and prioritised.
  • Pave the way for sustainable recovery efforts, grounded in fairer and more gender-just communities and societies.
 

Read the policy brief

  • 1. https://www.agendaforhumanity.org/summit
  • 2. https://www.odi.org/publications/17044-grand-bargain-annual-independent-report-2020
  • 3. https://charter4change.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/c4c-recommedations-to-gb-2020.pdf
  • 4. https://www.feministhumanitariannetwork.org/

Daniela Capalbo

Project Officer, ActionAid Italy

Rosita and Daniela, who support ActionAid’s coronavirus response in Italy, share their experiences and talk about their vital work which keeps women and girls safe during the pandemic.

In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, Italy was hit particularly hard, with high numbers of cases in many parts of the country.

The pandemic affected every part of life in Italy, including the work of ActionAid.

"During emergencies, inequality increases."

I am Daniela Capalbo, a Project Officer at ActionAid Italy based in Naples and my work focuses on initiatives to help asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups in my city.

Daniela Capalbo, a Project Officer at ActionAid Italy, helps asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups in Naples during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the ways in which this help is provided is ActionAid Italy’s Seeds Project, which has provided emergency aid to around 450 at-risk families in Naples and Milan during the coronavirus pandemic.

This support has gone to both Italian and migrant households where people have lost jobs in hospitality, handicrafts, and other occasional jobs involving irregular contracts. It also includes single mothers, disabled people, and elderly people living alone.

Together with diaspora communities, associations and activists, we identify the most disadvantaged families in the districts of Vasto, Forcella and Piazza Garibaldi. I coordinate the purchase of food from producers who are part of the Slow Food network, as well as other basic goods, and I manage home deliveries.

This work has been particularly important to residents who do not meet the requirements for government support – those who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

The associations and representatives of diaspora communities have played a fundamental role in identifying the recipients. People and families who would have been excluded from other forms of support and who are outside institutional radars - therefore invisible.

The Seeds Project is absolutely vital during this time of crisis as often during emergencies, inequality increases.

It is essential to take care of those who do not have other forms of aid because the wellbeing of the community depends on the wellbeing of each and every person."

"Our work does not stop" – Meet Rosita

Rosita Altobelli is a lawyer and co-ordinator of the Donatella Tellini Centre, a support centre in L’Aquila province, funded by ActionAid Italy, which supports women who are experiencing, or have experienced, abuse.

Rosita Altobelli co-ordinates a support centre, funded by ActionAid Italy, helping women who experienced or are at risk of violence and abuse.

Her region was hit by an earthquake in 2009, and one of the results of this was that many people have since been forced to live in tight living spaces. This has proved problematic for women in abusive relationships, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown.

"For women who experience abuse within their families, quarantine coincides with an increase of violence: isolation, forced cohabitation, and economic instability in this Covid-19 emergency period are factors that make women and their children more exposed to domestic violence."

When the pandemic hit, ActionAid made every effort to ensure vulnerable women were still protected. Our #Closed4Women fund helped women’s refuges and support centres like Rosita’s to keep operating.

We helped address the need for protective equipment (such as masks, gloves, and sanitiser), as well as shelters needing extra funds to find rooms in guesthouses for women fleeing violence.

For Rosita, it has been all about adapting to the shifting reality of the situation.

Our work does not stop. We’ve organised ourselves to provide legal and psychological counselling via phone or Skype. We aren’t leaving the women whom we were already looking after on their own – we are keeping in touch with them and we are available via phone 24/7 for requests for help."

One concern for Rosita is the decrease in number of phone calls. This may sound like good news, but it could be anything but.

As she explains: "Women who are confined in their home face difficulties in seeking help, as most of the time they do not have the possibility to make a phone call without being listened to and having the guarantee of privacy."

With the continued help of ActionAid’s supporters, Rosita and her team are able to remain a lifeline to women in her region who are living with the threat, or the aftermath, of violence.

How you can help

ActionAid is on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis helping to stop the spread and save lives as the pandemic hits the world’s poorest countries.

From Italy to India, Liberia to Kenya, local ActionAid-supported women’s groups are distributing life-saving advice, health information and hygiene kits to vulnerable communities.

We are also distributing food packages and essential supplies, working to stop violence before it happens, and provide support to women and girls who are affected. Please donate now to help us reach people in urgent need.

Support our Coronavirus Appeal

Sarika Sinha

Director of Policy Campaigns and Communications, ActionAid India

ActionAid’s Sarika Sinha discusses the incredible work by volunteers and women survivors of violence, getting food and vital aid to vulnerable people in the city of Bhopal, India during the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought so much disruption to so many. All over the world, people are having to shift their priorities, to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, to step up and be brave.

Bhopal, the city in India where I live and work, is no exception.

As ActionAid India's Director of Policy, Campaigns and Communications operating from Bhopal, I have seen our staff and volunteers become extremely resourceful as we expand our services and try to protect the most vulnerable in our society from this terrible disease.

One of our key initiatives here is a centre, established in 2014 as a joint venture with the government, that offers support to women who have survived violence. From emotional support to legal assistance and economic rehabilitation, we have helped more than 30,000 women recover from trauma and begin new chapters in their lives.

How the coronavirus pandemic has changed the centre and our lives

The name of our women’s centre is Gauravi, which means ‘brave heart.’ In recent months, during the coronavirus outbreak, this name has taken on a whole new meaning.

As I write this, there are a dozen women, each one trained by us to drive an electric rickshaw, who are out delivering vital supplies and emergency aid to vulnerable people in our city. They are using these vehicles – originally intended as an eco-friendly source of livelihood – to bring vital food, hygiene supplies and other essentials to those who are vulnerable and especially at risk, including sex workers, transgender communities, Muslim minorities and homeless people.

Talat, a survivor of domestic abuse, was supported by the Gauravi Centre and is now part of ActionAid India’s Covid-19 response. She has been using her rickshaw to deliver food to vulnerable people in Bhopal, India.

These fearless women are taking our ‘brave heart’ ethos to a whole new level

As the coronavirus pandemic has entered our community, the Gauravi Centre has become a vital hub for providing support to people and families affected by the virus and the lockdown. At the same time, we are also carrying on our important work for local women whose lives have been shattered by violence and abuse.

Nobody is getting paid for this work. They’re not doing it for money; like so many people all around the world, they’re helping because they care, because they want to do something. It’s very inspiring to see

To aid us in our virus response, we’ve teamed up with about 18 different groups and organisations in the area, including community kitchens and shelters. With all of these amazing people working together, around the clock, we’ve been able to distribute food packets and dry rations every day to the most excluded people.

Nobody is getting paid for this work. They’re not doing it for money; like so many people all around the world, they’re helping because they care, because they want to do something. It’s very inspiring to see.''

Volunteers at the Gauravi Centre packing the food to be delivered. On some days they are distributing over 7,000 ration kits to families in need.

Of course there have been shortages. Like other places, we worry about running out of PPE, which is so vital for keeping our volunteers safe. There was one period when Bhopal’s entire health department was affected because they are frontline defenders. We had around 90 people getting infected in one go.

At that time the authorities made the lockdown very strict – for about a week, my family had very little food in the house, and had to eat less each day to make our supplies go further.

Running the Gauravi Centre under the lockdown

I also fell ill at the start of April with a very high temperature and blood pressure, a cough, and the loss of my sense of taste and smell. I had to be quarantined at home for several weeks, and so I would spend many hours every day on the phone helping to co-ordinate our work.

I am feeling better now and have tested negative for Covid-19. My life still feels very topsy-turvy and I work from early in the morning to late at night.

I am not the only one who does so! Our amazing team of volunteers and ActionAid staff members are doing this, and no one complains. I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported ActionAid, enabling us not only to work with women and girls in Bhopal but to mount this immense operation that is saving lives around the city.

I derive a lot of strength from what’s happening thanks in part to the generosity of ActionAid supporters. These stories of people getting rations, of our volunteers being out there and getting stuff done - they give me hope.

I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported ActionAid, enabling us not only to work with women and girls in Bhopal but to mount this immense operation that is saving lives around the city.'

How you can help

ActionAid is on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis helping to stop the spread and save lives as the pandemic hits the world’s poorest countries.

From Italy to India, Liberia to Kenya, local ActionAid-supported women’s groups are distributing life-saving advice, health information and hygiene kits to vulnerable communities.

We are also distributing food packages and essential supplies, working to stop violence before it happens, and provide support to women and girls who are affected. Please donate now to help us reach people in urgent need.

Support our Coronavirus Appeal

How will my sponsorship be affected? Find out the answer to this and other frequently asked questions about child sponsorship during the coronavirus pandemic.

As Covid-19 spreads, the world’s most vulnerable people are facing an immense catastrophe. If you're a child sponsor, we know you will be worried about the child you sponsor, so we have compiled some answers to the key questions we’ve recently been asked.

In the communities where ActionAid works around the world, our incredible colleagues are adapting plans and leading activities to respond to the impact of coronavirus.

With your support, we will be working over the months ahead to lessen the spread and reduce the impact of the disease. This is only possible with the commitment of amazing people like you. Thank you.

How is ActionAid responding to the coronavirus pandemic? 

People living in poverty are already faced with the harsh consequences of other humanitarian disasters.

Crowded living conditions mean families will find it difficult to distance themselves from others. Also, many people cannot access the water, sanitation, healthcare and the vital information they need to stay safe.

Through child sponsorship, we have long-standing relationships with many communities in the countries where we work. Right now, we are working around the clock with the most vulnerable communities to ensure families are supported during this health emergency.

Through local women’s groups, we are distributing life-saving health information, hygiene kits, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to key workers.

We’re also working to tackle the spread of deadly misinformation about coronavirus. This means translating vital public health advice, such as regularly washing hands with soap, into local languages and getting it to the most marginalised and hardest to reach people, including women and girls.

Will this affect the child I sponsor?

This is a rapidly changing situation, and our child sponsorship work is crucial to our ability to respond as necessary to the needs of the communities where we work.

As soon as the scale of the health crisis was apparent, ActionAid immediately stopped all mass gatherings. This included our events to collect child messages, as the health and well-being of the children and their families is paramount.

In many of the countries where we work, the governments have closed schools and asked people to isolate to help reduce the risk of the disease spreading.

For these reasons, we cannot yet confirm the status of individual sponsored children or their families. But as soon as it is safe to get in touch with each family, we will update you with further news.

This of course may mean we will not be able to collect the next scheduled messages from the children as planned.

I’m sure you’ll understand that the health and well-being of sponsored children, their families and communities is our overriding priority. We ask you to please bear with us as we face this challenge – it may be some time before we can update you further about the child you sponsor.

Can I still write to the child I sponsor?

Yes, please do! Communication is now more important than ever as we all face the challenges that Covid-19 brings. We have received so many amazing messages of support from our child sponsors for the children they sponsor.

Myla wrote this lovely message to Prencence in Democratic Republic of Congo, the child her family sponsors

While we cannot yet deliver these to the children directly, we do encourage you to write, as it is important to stay connected. As soon as it is safe to do so, we will share these messages with the children and their families.

If you would like to write a message, please send it to: ActionAid, UK Child Sponsorship Office, Chard Business Park, Jarman Way, Chard, Somerset, TA20 1FB.

Your messages of support always mean so much to the children, their families and communities – thank you!

When will I get an update from or about the child I sponsor?

Unfortunately we do not know when we’ll be able to collect further messages from the children. And once restrictions are lifted, it may take some time to restart all aspects of sponsorship, including collecting messages.

But as soon as we are able, and it is safe to do so, we will again organise fun events for the children to participate in, including our very special child message activities.

How can I keep informed?

The situation is constantly evolving, and we are working with our colleagues across the world to gather the latest updates.

We will be sending updates to child sponsors via post and email as soon as we can, but if you have any further questions, please email supportercontact@actionaid.org or phone 01460 23 8000.

And to keep up-to-date about ActionAid's response to the coronavirus pandemic around the world, please check back to our blog

Thank you again for your amazing support at this difficult time