NEW YORK — Around the globe, the pandemic has severely affected women and girls, exacerbating existing inequalities and creating repercussions in education, economic opportunity, health, and the home.
SNF has sought to help address this pattern through its $100 million global COVID-19 relief initiative. The Foundation has made grants to a number of organizations around the world focused on not only aiding women and girls, but also including them as vital agents in the change-making process.
“We partner with women because they're the water experts in the areas where we work,” says Kate Cincotta, founder of Saha Global, one of these organizations. Saha sets up women in Ghana’s Northern Region as entrepreneurs who run their own businesses delivering clean water to their communities.
During the pandemic, Saha has distributed water at no charge in the areas it works and has seen a six-fold increase in demand. This means more work for the entrepreneurs, to whom Saha has provided stipends and bonuses, in addition to personal protective equipment to help them stay safe.
Another organization in Southern Madagascar is also working with networks of local women to provide for essentials and promote pandemic health measures. By partnering with 1,500 women from the region, Action contre la Faim seeks to fight food insecurity by disseminating the knowledge and resources necessary to enable the adoption of market gardening.
In the United States, Hot Bread Kitchen is supporting alumnae of its workforce development program in securing new job opportunities by meeting immediate needs like housing, childcare, and transportation, while also piloting a project to put women-owned catering businesses to work addressing food insecurity. Other grants in the U.S. and Italy to Women in Need, the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), and Intersos aim to help provide for essentials like food, shelter, psychological support, and access to a reliable internet connection.
In the field of health, mothers2mothers’ Mentor Mothers disseminate trusted health information in 10 countries across Africa and help women living with HIV keep pursuing treatment, in spite of the barriers created by the pandemic. Meanwhile, Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children’s Hospital has worked on a biobank open to all researchers to help discover the impact of COVID-19 on children and pregnant women.
Disruption to education and to networks of support have the potential to create long-lasting deficits, and SNF grants seek to help enable young women remain engaged in their own learning and development. CAMFED International is helping ensure access to education for girls in rural Zambia by improving school environments and providing direct support to encourage them to stay in school, training teachers, and implementing meal programs. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Save the Children UK is installing hand-washing facilities and gender-divided restroom facilities in educational centers and providing financial support to girls most at risk of dropping out of school. In New York, Figure Skating in Harlem is guiding young women in elementary through high school to grow in health, emotional wellbeing, and leadership by combining the sport with academic support.
Through a partnership with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the SNF Small Business Growth & Recovery Fund will provide grant funding and guidance to help small businesses, including those owned by women, people of color, and veterans, adapt to the new socioeconomic realities of the pandemic and find new ways to thrive.
The acute damage wrought by the pandemic in the lives of women and girls around the world must inform recovery efforts moving forward. And nonprofits like these and Saha Global demonstrate how such efforts can center women and girls as crucial agents of change.
“It's been really amazing,” Kate says, “to be able to transform something that had typically been a lot of work—a burden—for women in these communities into an opportunity where they can use their lifelong expertise to start a business and provide a service to their community.”