innovation | ethics | impact

World Humanitarian Day 2020

What drives humanitarians to continue save and protect lives despite conflict, insecurity, and risks linked to COVID-19: women voices from the field

We are pleased to introduce you to amazing women humanitarians who are doing wonders all around the world to support their disaster-stroked or disaster-prone communities, and tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges!

We selected these incredible women to pay tribute to their dedication, commitment, and inspiring vision. They are running around bringing positive changes in their communities, but we rarely read about them in the news. That is why we wanted to shed the lights on them today and listen to their stories and messages to the world, at the occasion of World Humanitarian Day 2020. We believe in the causes they fight for along the humanitarian-development-peace continuum, and are proud to work with them directly or through our partners.

Meet Yasmine from Vanuatu

Sista Organization | Women and girls advocacy through media and communication

Yasmin (on the extreme right) in a program on leadership for young women.

Yasmine Bjornum is the founder of Sista, the first feminist organization in Vanuatu, which uses arts, media and communications to empower women and girls and, inform the communities and advocate on issues that affect women and girls.

What is your vision for the world/your country/community? My vision for Vanuatu is one where women can speak and live freely without fear of violence or retribution.

What drives your work? I love being able to work with women, especially young women, and see them becoming the change they need. Vanuatu is one of three countries in the world without women in parliament and despite being twice named ‘the happiest’ country in the world, we have high rates of violence with more than 60% of inmates in jail for sexual violence. Young women are beginning to understand the power they have and they are rocking the system so that it reflects the world they want to see – one where everyone is treated fairly and equally and their voices are HEARD with respect!

Your message for humanitarians around the world:

“If you have the honor of doing this work, I hope that you find joy in it, like I do. It makes all the difference to enjoy the process and the people around you.”

Meet Thaiza from India

Gabriel Project Mumbai | Promoting community resilience in the slums of Mumbai and tribal villages

Thaiza Dias (in yellow) with her Love2Learn teachers in Bhasker Nagar in Kalwa. 

As part of the senior management of a Non-Profit called “Gabriel Project Mumbai”, Thaiza Dias ideates and ensures impactful implementation of projects in vulnerable slum and tribal communities with a special focus on women and children.

What is your vision? My vision is that equal opportunity, love and respect for nature and human life be valued more than religion, caste, gender, or our physical, social, and economic standing in society.

What drives your work? I love that my work strengthens local communities by creating local leaders, woman and men alike, who can continue to work regardless of our presence and address the needs of their communities. I also like that women in our organization are playing a central and leading role in the decision making and implementation of our program activities i.e. 80% of the management and administrative staff are women.

Your message for humanitarians around the world:

“Hear local voices, respect their opinion and ideas, create real empathetic relationships that go beyond social media posts. Take time to learn and engage with the people, if possible, in their own language. Respect their voices!”

Meet Olga from Uganda

Overcomers Women Group | Promoting positive behavioral and social change from within communities

Olga Lindrio is the Founder, Executive Director of Overcomers Women Group a Community-Based Organization (CBO) based in Adjumani district in the West Nile region of Uganda established in 2011. Olga is a Gender Based Violence (GBV) activist, girl child education promoter, and founder of a network of women-led CBOs which brings together women led and women rights organizations in Adjumani district – a district hosting more than 200,000 refugees – mostly from South Sudan. Overcomers Women Group (OWG)’s main goal is transforming lives of women and Girls in disadvantaged communities. Olga has been recognized by the district as a role model for women and girls in Adjumani.

What is your vision?  My goal in life is to ensure women exercise their rights and are able to make things work and live meaningful and productive lives. My vision is to transform lives of women, girls and their families holistically all over the world.

What drives your work? What I love the most about my work is seeing child mothers returning back to school, reduction in early marriages, teenage pregnancy, school dropouts, reduction of Sexual Gender Based Violence cases and seeing women being self-reliant and sufficient. Also,
when women unite and work together, they can achieve more.

Your message for humanitarians around the world: People should adopt the spirit of brotherhood regardless of race, color and location. Support must be given to the young women for them to be able to meet their basic needs, and support girl child education. The school dropouts and elderly people should be catered for since most of them cannot help themselves, gender mainstreaming is key for community project success.

“Humanitarian actors should work hand in hand with the grassroots local community based organizations for the purposes of sustainability and also ensure that the host communities are not left out.”

Engaging youth on behavior change.

Meet Mary from South Sudan

Voice of the Peace | A national singer fighting Gender-based violence in war-torn communities

Mary addressing the needs of conflict-affected Pibor, South Sudan.

Mary Boyoi is a national singer in South Sudan and in Africa, as well as a humanitarian and gender activist. Aside being one of the most recognized artists in South Sudan, Mary started a community-based humanitarian organization, called Voice of the Peace (VoP) in 2015, to address the most urgent needs of women and girls in the most remote, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities of South Sudan – especially in her home region, Pibor which faces many social, economic and security challenges. VOP provides psychosocial support and referral pathways for medical care to survivors of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) for conflict-affected displaced and host communities. VOP has child-friendly spaces as well as girl-friendly spaces to provide a safe haven for survivors of GBV. VOP also works on the livelihoods of the most hard-to-reach and vulnerable women and girls by offering skills-based activities such as basket weaving, embroidery, and other crafts.

Mary uses her network and reputation as an artist to speak out about harmful social and cultural norms and practice in South Sudan, and raise awareness on sensitive topics, such as early forced marriages, through songs and music.

Your message to humanitarians around the world:

“To maximize the existing capacities and assets of the communities to bring about positive coping mechanisms and establish support structures that are locally-designed and led.”

Meet Binita from Nepal

Antardristi Nepal | Preventing and responding to sexual abuse against children

Binita Adhikaria, Nepal.

Binita Adhikari helps people understand what child sex abuse is, its symptoms and long- and short-term impact, including on mental health.  She founded and heads an organization called Antardristi Nepal (Antar means inner and Drist means sight) to help survivors of child sex abuse focusing particularly on rape and incest. She runs a safe house for these children to help them with mental health issues and resilience.

What is your vision? Dig your own track and start working, Be a part of the solution not a problem. Be innovative the doors of opportunities will start opening.

What do you love the most about your work? Mental health is silenced by stigma but I am breaking the discrimination and talking about mental health and now it’s getting acknowledged, this is what I love about my work: to break that taboo and serving the most vulnerable group.  I love the challenges that I have faced which have made me a strong person. It’s overwhelming to witness the transformation of the children who are in the safe house and to witness people leading the life beautifully after the counseling sessions.

Your message for humanitarians around the world:

“Do whatever positive way possible to bring back hope and smile to the people who have lost that without losing any hope and smile of oneself.  Be consistent.”

Meet Hanan from Iraq

Beth Nahrain Organisation for Women | Promoting a safe and stable reconstruction in Iraq

Hanan at work providing support to children.

Hanan Touma is from Mosul, Iraq and has been working for 16 years as a human rights activist and humanitarian, promoting the rights of women, children and families affected by conflict and inequalities. She is the president of Beth Nahrain Organisation for Women – a humanitarian community- and faith-based organization.

What is your vision for the world/your country or community? That the world be united by one idea, which is peace for humanity. I wish for the safety, development and  democracy of my country and community, and for women to play a fundamental role in its construction and development.

What drives you and your work?

  • Humanity and giving without return.
  • The painful look of the woman when she is searching for an idea to learn to protect herself from violence or conflict
  • Joy in the eyes of the child, the woman and the family when provided with assistance
  •  When I see women learn self-reliance, learn life leadership
  •  It makes me so happy when I see women defending their rights in the local and international forums

Your message to humanitarians around the world:

“To continue with unconditional giving and dealing with humanity despite the challenges, because a person deserves life. Giving, humanity and peace are the basic pillars by which people are built, as a plant that is planted to increase and become seedlings that are blessed to be seen.”

Meet Esther  from Egypt

Community-Based Organization | Promoting women and girls’ literacy to ensure resilience to risks

Esther distributing non-food items to at-risk and hard-to-reach communities.

Esther Shokry Izhak provides a variety of community services focusing on illiteracy programs along with health education in Assiut and Sohag, Egypt. She supports women who were rejected by society with transformational small business projects to combat poverty and persecution. The projects benefit minority women and girls who are at risk of facing more shocks and stresses, including GBV survivors.

Your vision? My vision for the world and for my country and community is to eradicate illiteracy because it leads to poverty and disease – and exacerbates the harmful consequences of disasters.

What drives you?  What I love most about what I do is when I see a smile on the faces of those in need, when I see people’s lives changing and when I see individuals becoming empowered and resilient to provide for their own needs as they feel their worth and value in life.

Your message to humanitarians is:

“Don’t tire of giving aid to people or providing shelter and medications. Give people a decent life to actualize a safe life to all. And lift fragility off people’s lives.”

Meet Elizabeth from Syria

Syriac Women’s Union | Working on equal representation and participation in reconstruction in war torn Syria

Elizabeth Gourieh is the Patron of the Syriac Cross, Founder of the Cultural Syriac Association and the Olaf Tau Educational Institute, Founder of the Syriac Women’s Union and, Founder Member of Women Council of North and East Syria &  Vice Co-Chair of the Executive Council in North and East of Syria.

What is your vision? My vision for the world is to strive to achieve humanistic values for everyone. That we may also have the ability to access economic freedom and for all citizens to participate freely in the political process.  I am passionate about the representation of woman for us to have the same rights in our society as men, that we will finally have equality between the men and women, and that we have the resilience to face challenges.

What drives your work? What I love about my work is to show the roles that women can play in humanitarian leadership, but also in civil, political, and economic arenas, and in society at large. In everything I am looking into women causes and see how we can help through lectures, training camps, gatherings etc. Additionally, I am in my home country representing my people, working for the rights of all identities on the basis of equal citizenship.

Your message for humanitarians around the world:

“I am calling on humanitarians to ensure the human rights, childcare, and women’s rights not only by speaking but by acting to reach what is written in the Geneva conventions and the United Nations declarations, and working for moral and humanistic reasons.”

***

Many thanks to all the women humanitarians who accepted to share their stories and messages!
Many thanks to our dear colleagues and partners for collecting stories and testimonies form amazing women humanitarians working in their conflict/disaster-affected communities and countries. Special thanks to our colleagues and partners:

  • Charles Wani, executive director of Sustainable Children Aid (SCA), South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, Mindset-PCS’s partner.
  • Charmaine Hedding, founder and executive director of the Shai Fund, which advocates on behalf of and works to protect the most vulnerable refugees and displaced persons, helping them build new lives in safety and freedom. Shai Fund also runs humanitarian aid that provide emergency relief in the immediate aftermath of natural and man-made disasters.
  • Nathalie Silverlieb, humanitarian and development professional, Mindset-PCS advisor.
  • Miki Noam Alon, humanitarian communications specialist, and Mindset-PCS senior advisor.
  • Ben Dagani, community development and resilience specialist.
  • Herbert Male, public health specialist in Uganda and South Sudan, and Mindset-PCS’s advisor.


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