The shock of a global pandemic is still reverberating around the world. While everyone is affected, women have been dealt a devastating blow, reports UN Women. According to the International Labour Organisation, two-thirds of jobs lost permanently to COVID-19 are performed by women.
As quarantine measures shut schools and nursery facilities, women often shoulder the burden of balancing work with childcare and home-schooling. Social distancing deprives them of the support they may normally lean upon.
But women are far from defeated.
This International Women’s Day, we wanted to honour this strength. We invited 8 women, aged 18 to 91, to sit for a portrait and conversation. In the midst of challenge, their strength is undeniable, their resilience inspiring, and their faith, unshakeable.
Who are these women? Take a look.
They are all around us.
Despite a lifetime of challenges and struggles, 91-year-old Angelita never imagined living through a devastating pandemic that would hit the entire world. However, her life lessons have prepared her for this challenge, and she shares her beautiful perspective with us.
“Everything happened very fast. My children told me that I could not leave the house. One day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked up the mountain. Empty streets. It was as if all the people had disappeared. I’m afraid of not knowing what will happen to my children and grandchildren. I don’t have many years left to live, but my grandchildren’s lives are just beginning.
I want a world of peace, without discrimination, without evil. A world where men and women are treated the same and where there is no more violence against women. Women, we are like roses: beautiful, unique and special. Our thorns are life lessons and the challenges that we overcome every day. Our destiny is to fight and grow with the sunlight, no matter how intense the wind or rain.”
Mother Anne lost her job as a result of the pandemic and the stress of the situation affected her health, but she refused to lose hope.
“I'm a teacher but because the schools closed, we had to stay home without work. Because I was the breadwinner, the stress of the situation gave me stomach ulcers. It really broke my heart knowing that I was not going to be able to provide for my family.
Our local church and Compassion team have made us feel like we are part of a big family. One thing a family does is pray together. They have been praying for us, for our families, and for our kids. I would like my children to be God-fearing kids because with God, everything is possible. And when they have His Word in their hearts, they can do everything.”
Two-year-old Daloar's parents work in the garment industry but when the pandemic hit, their work ceased. As his parents slowly return to work, Grandma Shokhina is back to managing the household—and her four grandchildren—with determination and gratitude.
“I have always lived a life with less, having been born into a poor family. However, the pandemic has taught us that if we think that we have faced our worst, then we are wrong: the worst can get even uglier. But one thought remains unchanged: our hope and trust in the Almighty.
The registration of my grandchildren into Compassion’s programme is a blessing from God. It gives me goosebumps to even think about how our time would have gone in the first three months of the pandemic if it weren’t for my grandchildren’s registration.”
Danielly, 38, Brazil
Danielly is a mother of two daughters living on Brazil's coast. Like other women, she has struggled with different challenges in society, particularly related to her race, gender, and social prejudices. When the pandemic inflamed these tensions, she knew she could count on the support of Compassion's church partner to help her fight to overcome her challenges.
“The history of black people in Brazil has always been one of struggle, but we have always added music and joy to our journey. Even with all the challenges that the pandemic has brought us or increased, I can still dream of better days. Capoeira [Afro-Brazilian martial art] teaches me that.
I know things will take a while to get back to normal, but I trust God and I know that He is guarding us all. I don't want an easy world for my daughters. After all, challenges also help us grow. I want them to be strong and proud of who they are.”
In one community in North Sumatra, mother Maharti’s family depends on the fabric she weaves using techniques that are 100 years old. The pandemic has hit the family hard, yet Maharti is not giving up.
“I would typically get orders to make around three pieces of ulos fabric each month. During the early months of COVID-19, fabric orders hit the bottom ground. In my community, most of the women are housewives. When the pandemic came and their husbands are losing their jobs, it hits the family hard.
In these challenging times, knowing I can help my husband generate income for our family is special to me. The younger generation nowadays has a little interest in what I do, so this ulos weaving technique is facing the threat of extinction. I hope that I can pass on what I know to my daughter.”
In the midst of the pandemic, Diana has an autoimmune disease that leaves her isolated and vulnerable to COVID-19. But despite the hardships, she continues to battle against the illness.
“Because of my lupus, I’m no longer allowed to spend too much time with my friends or my extended family. I have to stay home. I have started to value the time I get with my siblings and my mother, as well as the phone calls from relatives.
While there are talks of a vaccine, we don’t know when that vaccine will come to Nicaragua due to the country’s situation. The effects of the socio-political unrest of 2018 can still be felt today.
I want to be able to stand on my own two feet. Despite not being able to run, I know my imagination can take me further than I could ever imagine, and I trust that the Lord will be with me throughout it all.”
Even before the pandemic hit, mother of four Yhovana was already facing a desperate financial situation. But despite the increased hardship, she always has a smile on her face. She’s thankful for what she has, for what God’s doing, and for the church's support to her family.
“When the pandemic hit, I had practically nothing: no supplies or milk for my children. They hadn’t paid my husband at work and then they fired him. In the first days of the pandemic, we didn’t have food. Our breakfast was water with cinnamon.
“I decided to help out on a pig farm. We received chicken guts to feed the pigs. So, I collected the nicer intestines to bring them home to my children, to cook and eat. Thanks to the Lord, the church supported me at the right moment. When we didn't have anything to eat, they came with a big chicken, and we ate meat for the first time in a long time.
I have seen that God always provides and helps us. We move ahead with God’s help.”
Beatrice is a mother of four children who’s fighting female poverty through weaving fabric for her local community. The pandemic has made life difficult, but Beatrice is counting her blessings.
“Women face a lot of issues in my community. There are no formal jobs for women—they must stay at home or run small businesses to support their families. I am very lucky to have the opportunity [through Compassion] to know how to weave and make local fabric. I praise God that my life has a purpose since I am more productive.
“Before COVID-19, my husband used to come back late from work in the evening and the kids used to go to bed without seeing their father. But during quarantine, we had more time together as a family. That is something positive that has come from the crisis.”
Through hardship and challenges, these incredible women are living their lives, supporting their families, and still looking at life with hope. They are undefeated.
If you already sponsor a girl, thank you so much for your support. Please know that you are helping her receive opportunities to flourish.
If you are considering sponsorship, why not do something amazing this International Women's Day? Through child sponsorship you can help unlock potential and empower girls out of poverty.
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