The YWCA is a global movement of leaders. YWCA leaders are women of all ages. They are problem solvers, care takers, agents of change, and supporters in their communities and families, both formally and informally. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we know women carry an even heavier load, tending to the front lines of their homes, their jobs, their families and their communities, while tending to nicks and tears and fraying corners of their own super-heroine capes. This is true of women’s rights leaders across the globe.
We can debate the pros and cons of this reality from sunrise to sunset, but what we cannot debate is the truth of it.
- Gender is often an ignored factor during health emergencies, even though women comprise 70% of the global healthcare workforce.
- The emergency measures needed to fight COVID-19 have increased the burden of many women regarding domestic work and the care of children, elderly relatives and sick family members.
- Domestic violence reportedly rose in Wuhan, China, during the city’s two-month lockdown. This is now being reported from multiple countries.
- The sexual and reproductive health of young women is at risk as schools shutdown.
- Most key decision-makers designing and executing the pandemic response are men. Only 25 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide are women, and less than 10 per cent of Heads of State or Government are women.
- Economically, women and young women make up more than half of informal sector jobs. They are at higher risk of losing jobs during shutdowns.
It’s often been said that the YWCA responds to the unique needs of every community it serves, and the unique challenges of every era. The current COVID-19 pandemic is a threat to what we know, affecting everyone, everywhere, somehow and the YWCA is here to be a part of the global response.
With an unforeseen number of cases and loss of lives reported globally, the pandemic may feel insurmountable. But it is exactly the type of emergency to which YWCA has been responding for more than 160 years.
The YWCA is practiced at the art of being agile and creative in response to grave challenges – some that seem woven like threads through the fabric of our lives, and those that threaten to unravel it. And that practice has never been more evident.
Here are just a few examples of how our leaders are guiding their communities through this global crisis:
Physical Health: YWCA Bangladesh and YWCA Japan are using videos to ensure that communities are learning and adhering to health protocols. The World YWCA has created resources to be used in communities with children and women when educating around COVID-19. YWCA Korea has come up with “After You Campaign” to create awareness on usage of masks.
Emotional Health & Well Being: YWCA Scotland is helping everyone stay virtually connected to avoid feeling emotionally drained during the pandemic with their #YWCANetflixParty. World YWCA has put together a tool for Virtual Safe Spaces, taking the YWCA Safe Space model to a new platform. The YWCA India is coming up with a directory of psychological services and counsellors for India.
Gender Based Violence Safety: YWCA USA quickly produced a video about what can be done to help domestic violence survivors in isolation during social distancing. YWCA Canada recently hosted a town hall on Gender Equity during COVID-19 to discuss the gendered impact, policy responses and actions to be taken for communities. The direct help specialists of YWCA Belaruscontinue to provide psychological support online and by telephone to women facing domestic violence.
Support for Community: YWCA Korea, with their 53 local member associations, was amongst the first to respond by providing masks, flower baskets and snacks and meals to first responders, along with initiating fundraising activities for the worst affected region. Other YWCAs are initiating connections via Whatsapp, Facebook and text mechanisms in regions where country lockdowns have been implemented. YWCA Australia is involved in many coalition campaigns including housing, social security, and the inclusion of students and temporary visa holders in Australia. So many other YWCAs are supporting their communities at the national and local level.
Spiritual Health: YWCA Bahamas, YWCA India, YWCA Ireland and YWCA Zimbabwe, amongst others, are providing spiritual and ecumenical support by initiating daily prayers, prayer chains, and prayer calendars for communities.
Tools and Resources for Communities Across the Globe: World YWCA has already produced various replicable, adaptable tools for YWCAs to use in communities. YWCA Ireland has come up with innovative resources for young women and women working from home to ensure better mental health during lockdown.
The YWCA movement is working to provide the required care, support, resources and safe spaces needed for girls, young women and women. And, critical services in communities – creating plans and involving citizens, community leaders, partners and government entities. This community-based and relevant action is a manifestation of the YWCA purpose and vision.
As this pandemic spreads to more and more communities, it will impact the lives of more and more girls, young women and women. Our social systems and the underlying assumptions they rest on will continue to be challenged and transformed – and we trust that you will continue to support the global YWCA movement in its effort to lead this transformation in a positive direction.
We know that when women, young women and girls set their minds to change – or when they respond to the ever-changing challenges that arise in times of crisis – great things happen. Please join in the efforts of your local YWCA, support their work, and donate.
– First Chairwoman of the 100 year old YWCA World Service Council, Vera Cushman
General Secretary, World YWCA