Photo: Flickr.com/Project Photos.
Monday 8 March 2021 was International Women’s Day (IWD). A day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about gender equality and women’s rights, and challenge inequality and injustice. However, as our Secretary General Josianne Gauthier, highlighted “March 8, 2021 is so very different from previous years. We are entering the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, one that has shaken our world, exposed all of our disfunctions and inequalities and the extent to which we have been overburdening our planet, its resources, our brothers and most especially our sisters around the world and who saved us from the worst situations.”
In the same line, the Vatican Covid-19 Comission published a cross-cutting summary titled “Women in the COVID-19: Disproportionately affected and protagonists of regeneration”, which also includes the specific vision of the Catholic Church in gender equality during the pandemic, as well as examples and cases around the world supported by CIDSE members.
This unique context has been reflected in the IWD messages of many of our member organisations. They have highlighted different ways in which the pandemic and its confinement measures have exacerbated pre-existing inequalities, injustices and vulnerabilities. However, the messages also clearly show that programmes, project and activities can help overcome these when gender equality and women’s rights are at their core.
A summary of some of our members’ messages for International Women’s Day can be found below.
Broederlijk Delen – Sustainable world with equality
Broederlijk Delen strives for gender justice as part of social change on the way to an equal and sustainable world. Their programmes and activities on gender justice take into account the interests, opportunities and consequences for different genders. For the IWD, the organisation supported an initiative of the campaign by the EU-LAT network which recognizes the leadership of women in the response to the COVID-19 crisis.
This campaign focusses on how the pandemic has deepened existing inequalities even further in a context where women are more active than men in the informal sector and take on most of the care tasks. The rise of domestic violence has also been a consequence of the pandemic.
CAFOD – Womens’ and girls’ empowerment as a way to improve income and self-esteem.
For the IWD, CAFOD highlighted projects that empower women’s livelihoods. One example comes from Nicaragua where the impact of COVID-19 has left many families vulnerable. By learning to grow crops and produce honey, women in rural Nicaragua are improving their incomes and self-esteem.
CAFOD works also to provide them with products for their period. These materials are a basic need, but for women living in refugee camps or in poverty, the access to sanitary products is still a challenge. Find out how you can collaborate.
CCFD-Terre Solidaire – Patriarchy is an obstacle to the fight against hunger
On IWD, Sylvie Bukhari-de Pontual, president of CCFD-Terre Solidaire, shared in an opinion piece how “patriarchal culture and the denial of women’s rights are an obstacle to the struggle for food sovereignty in the world”. She stressed that the COVID-19 crisis exacerbates gender inequality, for example, through increased risks of domestic violence in confined homes and increased job precarity. On their social media, one of their partners stressed how this patriarchal culture affects migrant women resulting in various threats including sexual violence.
CIDSE – (5 years of) blogging for gender equality
On IWD 2016, the first CIDSE Gender Equality Blogpost was published. This year, on IWD, CIDSE celebrated 5 years of blogging for gender equality and women’s rights. Throughout these years, we were able to “create a space to share many unheard stories and reflections on how our work for social justice intersects with the individual struggles of women and men from around the world fighting for gender equality and the rights of women.” To honour those who courageously shared their stories and experiences with us and allow you to re-read some of these strong and powerful testimonies, we put together a collection of blogs which document this journey of reflection and inspiration. Read it in this link.
Cordaid – Fighting inequality together
During the week of the International Women’s Day, Cordaid shared inspiring stories from colleagues and partners around the world that are fighting inequality in everything they do – from health care to sexual rights, from participating in the political process to providing food, water and income. “Around the world, in front of and behind the scenes, women and men fight against gender inequality and for a more inclusive society. They are building a world in which everyone counts”, says the organisation. All these amazing stories are available to read.
You can also read the opinion piece of Mahamuda Rahman, communications officer at Cordaid, who reflects on “how both men and women are victims of the patriarchal society we live in”.
Development and Peace – Women on the frontlines of the pandemic
Development and Peace recalled how the COVID-19 pandemic and the confinement measures have exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities such as domestic violence and food insecurity. They also drew attention to the many ways in which women are on the frontlines of the pandemic “both because of its specific negative impacts on them and because they are stepping up to play vital roles in the pandemic response”. You can read here how their partners report that women are affected by and responding to the pandemic.
Entraide & Fraternité – Supporting the Association for the Promotion of Female Entrepreneurship
On International Women’s Day, Entraide & Fraternité focused on the work of their Congolese partner APEF, an association that offers tools to women of South Kivu (DRC) to increase the livelihoods and improve their economic and social position. Watch the story of Germaine and learn more about the work of APEF
Fastenopfer – Women are the key in the fight for climate justice
Fastenopfer used the occasion of IWD to thank once more the thousands of women who work for climate justice in their projects, highlighting that their work is crucial. Gender equality, they say, has a major impact not only on society, but also on climate. As an example, they highlighted one of their projects that supports women’s participation in sustainable agriculture.
FOCSIV – Hope is a woman
FOCSIV shared an interview given by FOCSIV’s President Ivana Borsotto to Vatican News, in which she stressed the important role of women in society “The women we met are all very strong women, they are the point of reference for their families, they are the point of reference for the communities in which they live. We are convinced, deeply convinced, that women are and will be the engine of the physical, moral, community and cultural reconstruction of this country, so hope is a woman”.
The interview was given during the Pope’s recent visit to the holy city of Qaraqosh in Iraq and in follow-up to a speech by the Pope in which he closed with a thought addressed to courageous women, asking that they be respected and protected in a country where, instead, they were violated in all aspects of their lives. Focsiv’s director also pointed out how the words of Pope Francis confirm the usefulness of the vocational training courses and psychological support services that FOCSIV offers to women. You can read the full interview at this link.
Manos Unidas – The pandemic has accentuated the discrimination suffered by women
Manos Unidas drew attention to the fact that “the pandemic has accentuated the multiple discriminations that women traditionally suffer”, as their article states. Besides being exposed to an increased workload and stress, women work generally in precarious and poorly paid jobs and have been the first to lose their jobs during the restrictions.
“For this reason, since its inception 62 years ago, Manos Unidas has worked for effective equality, in rights, capabilities and opportunities between women and men,” says Encarni Escobar, project manager in the organisation.
Maryknoll – Honoring the work and fight of Berta Cáceres
Five years ago, on 3rd March, the Honduran environmental and indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was murdered after receiving several threats for her environmental activism. On the IWD, Maryknoll honored her work inviting followers and readers to take action to end corruption and impunity in Honduras.
“It is essential”, Maryknoll stated, “that Senators hear their constituents asking for Congress to carry on Berta’s mission to defend indigenous territory and natural resources from harmful development projects. Berta Cáceres worked tirelessly for the indigenous peoples of Honduras. Her courageous activism led to her murder and the planners of the attack have never been held accountable”. See full call to action on their webpage.
Misereor – “No socio-ecological change without equality”
Misereor calls for gender equality to be recognized as an essential component of change and draws attention to the growing violence against women and non-heterosexual people worldwide. Sandra Lassak, theological policy advisor at the organisation points out that “what we need are fundamental systemic, structural changes in thinking and practice within society, but especially in our Church (…) The fact that women are important actors of change worldwide and are particularly committed to the limitless overexploitation of nature and to the defense of livelihoods must be given greater focus.”
In about 60 percent of the 3,000 projects that Misereor currently supports, gender and gender equality play an important role. They currently support 37 projects around the world that are explicitly committed to the elimination of violence against women (with funding of almost 9 million euros). You can read their dedicated blog ‘Strong women. Worldwide’.
Partage.lu – Equality is still an ongoing process
Partage.lu shares the opinion of Michelle Schmit, policy officer at Caritas Luxembourg, on the challenges women face working on the frontlines and due to the pandemic restrictions. Schmit highlighted that 70 percent of the workforce in health care and social professions is female. However, they also have less secure jobs than men. “When the economy declines, women are particularly affected by job cuts”, she writes for Tageblatt.
For the specialist, as long as global injustices persist, this IWD is needed to remind us that equality between men and women is still an ongoing process.
SCIAF – Gender equality and access to education
This IWD, SCIAF joined thousands of people worldwide
, to promote the importance of gender equality and the role that access to education and to the formal job market plays in reducing the gender divide and poverty.
“Dealing with the issue of gender divide and the impact of discrimination against women has huge advantages, not just for women themselves but for society as a whole”, says Alistair Dutton, SCIAF director. Women account for almost two thirds (70 percent) of all those living in absolute poverty and make up the majority (80 percent) of all refugees and displaced people.
Trócaire – Fighting against gender-based violence
On 8 March, Trócaire celebrated women who live in conflict affected countries like South Sudan and the DRC. In South Sudan, 65 percent of women and girls have experienced violence and in the DRC 1.9 million have experience rape. This is the reason why Trócaire works with communities and other stakeholders on various fronts to address gender-based violence’. Find out more here.
Vastenactie – Right to a decent wage for women and girls
On IWD, Vastenactie focused on the right to a decent wage for women and girls. Their message was linked to their Lent campaign around the theme ‘working on your future’. They shared the story of one of the protagonists of their Lent campaign, Zewelanji from Zambia, who thanks to vocational training was able to realise her dream of becoming a tailor.