As in earlier years, Mama Cash started 2020 with the intention to create a lot of noise and achieve as many tangible changes as possible together with feminist activists worldwide. The Corona pandemic has turned the world we all live in completely upside down.

The changes that are taking place at a rapid pace present us and grantee-partners with new and particular challenges.

Our priority is to support feminist groups to survive and sustain their work, so that existing inequalities are not further deepened. And so that the cost of this crisis in all its forms will not mainly end up with women, girls, trans and intersex people.

Globally, women are disproportionately affected by the consequences of the pandemic.

We see that women are at greater risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, because they make up a majority of health care workers (around 70 percent), mostly occupying nursing roles in the “front line” of care. As many schools are closed, there are a lot of extra care tasks at home. The majority of these end up on the shoulders of women and girls, often at the expense of their earning capacity, education and health. This is on top of the rapidly rising cases of domestic violence in this age of home quarantine.

We receive alarming messages from grantee-partners everywhere.

We hear stories of rising violence.

In India, Kenya and South Africa, violence against activists from marginalised communities is increasing. The safe spaces where lesbian women and transgender people can normally go are closed. As a result, they are extra vulnerable to police brutality outdoors and violence indoors from relatives they are forcibly quarantined with. A grantee-partner in Madagascar shared with us that women with disabilities are not included in the COVID-19 government assistance plan because they are at higher risk of contracting the virus given the weakness of their immune systems.

Grantee-partners tell us about the hard economic blows to large groups of women and increasing inequality.

The lockdown measures are particularly hard on women who depend on temporary jobs for their income or work at the low-wage labour market. Not being able to leave their home to make money means immediate poverty, food insecurity and homelessness for many financially vulnerable women. In Sri Lanka, two unions of women workers in the informal sector, mainly in textile, tea and rubber, aim to secure emergency funds for their members who are left without work or social security to get them through this period. 

The space for activism is rapidly shrinking in some countries.

In Poland, the government is abusing the crisis to breathe new life into a bill that further restricts abortion and criminalises sex education. Because demonstrations and other public gatherings are not allowed, grantee-partners in Poland are seeking new ways of resistance. In the Philippines, some grantee-partners have had to abandon their activism entirely; because of increasing state violence, they run even greater security risks than before.

What Mama Cash is doing

As the pandemic spread, our first priority was to get a picture of what grantee-partners need in order to deal with the situation so they can recover, sustain their work and continue to defend women’s rights. They have always worked in difficult conditions, which are now even worse. We stay in close and frequent contact with them and also think with them about solutions to the difficulties they face now and later.

Mama Cash has created a special fund to provide grantee-partners with additional financial support to get through and sustain their important work through this crisis. The “Recovery & Resilience Fund” will support women’s, girls’, trans and intersex people’s rights groups that are addressing the immediate and long-term needs and concerns of their communities and movements, for example: the sharp increase of violence against women, girls and LBTQI people, loss of livelihood and access to medical-care due to lock-down and the specific needs of people with a disability whose access is increasingly limited. This flexible funding allows grantee-partners to sustain themselves and their resilience, so they can continue their crucial work in the future.

In this way, we ensure that the visionary and persistent activists we support can continue their efforts for a more just and joyous future for everyone!