March 18, 2020
WomenStrong International believes that effective global development starts and ends by listening to women and girls, who know best what they need in order to thrive.
This value drives our approach to grantmaking and programming. We seek out and fund grassroots organizations that listen to urban women and girls as they seek to make progress in four critical areas: education, health, violence prevention, and economic opportunity. Our grantees listen to and work with many members of their communities, from young people to parents to village elders, to improve outcomes for women and girls and to change social norms that harm girls and hold back progress for women. And the listening continues as our grantees come together as members of our Learning Lab, where they share with and learn from one another about progress and challenges in achieving their goals.
For WomenStrong, listening to women also means being responsive to unanticipated circumstances with the potential to set back progress – for a specific Learning Lab member, a community, or for us all. The rapidly escalating Coronavirus pandemic is such a time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reached more than 155 countries and regions, including many where WomenStrong’s Learning Lab members work. From our experience with H1N1 and SARS, we know already that, as the world’s frontline caregivers, healthcare workers, and service workers, women are likely to be particularly susceptible to this novel virus; and yet, the world will continue to rely on their kindness, their skills, and their caring.
Our Learning Lab members’ projects are embedded in their communities, schools, and clinics, where staff gather people for training and other activities — activities now suspended or discouraged in some jurisdictions, with more official strictures issued on a near-daily basis as the virus spreads. Our members’ staff, too, are at risk and impacted; their children, like ours, may be out of school, compelling them to adjust their work schedules as the situation evolves.
That’s why WomenStrong has urged our grantees to make the safety of their program participants and staff their first priority in these troubling and highly volatile times.
We have also urged our members to follow all local and international guidelines in implementing their WomenStrong-funded projects and to use their own good judgment in determining whether and when to modify or delay planned activities. We have assured our members that we will work directly with them to adjust grant timelines and terms and conditions, as needed. Out of necessity, and with great regret, we have also suspended in-person convenings and travel for our staff until further notice.
Of course, this is all new, rapidly evolving, and unprecedented; none of us can predict the full impact of this pandemic. But we can act as a responsible partner to our global community of members, as we prioritize listening and responding to their shifting needs, as the needs of those they serve also change.
As those of us at WomenStrong strive to keep abreast of events and to plan accordingly at this profoundly disruptive moment, we hold uppermost in our hearts and minds our member organizations across the globe and the bold women and girls with whom they work.