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Through our work in 25 of the world’s poorest countries, we often have the pleasure of meeting incredible people from all walks of life. From the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa, here are nine amazing women that we’ve had the honour to meet.
1. Alaa Idrees, Lebanon
Alaa Idrees is a Protection Training Officer in Lebanon.
She works with women and children who are survivors of gender-based violence, providing guidance, resources, protection and psychosocial support at the most critical time. They work mostly with women and children at high risk by identifying them, ensuring a proper follow up, and referring them to the relevant organisations when required. Alaa told us, “My main purpose is to help the survivors improve their quality of life."
It’s estimated that one in three women will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime, which is associated with long-term mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During displacement and times of crisis, the threat of gender-based violence significantly increases for women and girls.
Read more about solutions to gender-based violence here.
2. Ramatou Jean Coffi, Niger
Ramatou Jean Coffi is Concern’s Community Awareness Officer in the Tahoua region of Niger. Community Awareness Officers visit the communities we work in and let them know who we are and what we are doing in the area. However, Ramatou has had to face one of the most persistent obstacles to gender inequality in the workplace - balancing employment with caregiving and domestic responsibilities.
Ramatou explained that she would not be in the role if it were not for shared family support, which challenges the social assumption of her as sole care provider. It is particularly difficult when she has to spend days away from home in hard to reach parts of Niger.
I work full time during the day. When I finish, I go home, and there are household chores and duties in raising children. It is hectic. But we keep moving forward. My husband also participates in the tasks. He helps me with household chores.
Read more about why investing in women is smart here.
3. Caustasie, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
61-year-old grandmother of two, Caustasie, lives in the DRC, where many families have been pushed from their homes due to conflict and natural disasters. When the fighting reached Caustasie’s village, she had no choice but to run.
There was a huge panic. It just happened suddenly. We never expected conflict to reach our village. No one had time to take anything. We just grabbed our kids and ran away from the village. No one had any idea which direction they were going. It was either stay and die or run away.
Leaving everything she owned behind, Caustasie took her grandchildren and fled for her life. This was the beginning of a long and perilous journey, but one that she knew she had to take if Gloria* (four years) and Emmanuel* (20 months), were to be safe.
They travelled on foot, covering more than 50 miles over several days. Passers-by helped them and, in some places, the family were taken in and given shelter. At other times, they had to risk sleeping out in the open, exposed to the dangers that surrounded them. The nights were cold, and all Caustasie had was the wrap she wore, which she used to keep the children warm while they slept.
Finally, they reached safety in Kiambi, but they had no money. In order to feed her family, Caustasie now works as a farm labourer, with Emmanuel strapped to her back. The work is sporadic – even on days when it is available, she earns around €0.82 per day – not nearly enough to feed her family. Yet Caustasie goes on.
I am motivated to keep going by my grandchildren. When I watch them grow up, it brings joy to me.
4. Doke, member of the Chalbi Salt self-help group Kenya
This group of 15 amazing women collect salt from a desert in northern Kenya in order to support their community and put girls through school.
The desert, around 100,000 square kilometres (slightly bigger than the island of Ireland), is aptly named ‘Chalbi’ - meaning ‘bare and salty’ in the language of the Gabbra people who live there. This salt provides essential nutrients for livestock, said to help animals grow healthier and yield better produce. But not everyone has access to it - especially those living in the hills that border Ethiopia. This is where the Chalbi Salt Self-Help Group comes in.
The women embark on the two-day trip to the desert, which is 20km away, to collect the salt. They then sell this to local farmers and herders, who either mix it with water or let their animals lick it in its pure form. This provides a great source of income for these hard-working women, not only to buy food for their families but to also pool together to invest in a better future.
With the money, they’ve set up their own village savings and loan group to help women who need an extra hand; investing it carefully and lending it with a little interest which goes straight back into the pot. They also use the profits to provide educational support to disadvantaged girls, supplying uniforms, exercise books and pens.
We’re supporting girls’ education so they don’t fall behind. If you educate a girl child and she pursues well in her studies she will get somewhere. She not only supports her family, but the entire community can benefit.
5. Annie, Liberia
Annie has limited physical mobility, and in her remote hometown in Liberia she has no access to basic social services. Since the Liberian civil war, she has relied on farming as the single source of income for her family, making her financially very vulnerable.
She joined other women in her village to take part in our home gardening training. The ten crops she planted supply her family with vegetables all year round with some extra to sell each harvest (all without having to travel from home!).
The money she has generated from her sales offers her financial security. She uses it to cover her family's daily needs, including her grandson’s tuition fees. She hopes to build a house in the next five years.
On top of that, Annie feels she's earned a great level of respect from friends and neighbours. Proving that just a little support can go very a long way.
6. Lowiriyen, Kenya
33-year-old Lowiriyen is the breadwinner of her family, seeking out work such as sweeping people's houses where she can. She and her family have been severely affected by the drought sweeping through East Africa. Marsabit - the area of Kenya where they live - is currently experiencing emergency levels of food insecurity.
Inside Lowiriyen's home, a small kid goat shelters from the rain. Lowiriyen rescued the goat after it had been abandoned. The owner could no longer afford to feed it and she claimed it as her own. It is all she possesses after losing all of her own goats to the drought. That loss also means that a sustainable livelihood and reliable access to food have gone too.
The impact of that left Lowiriyen's 18-month-old daughter, Lagu severely malnourished. Thankfully, she is now recovering after receiving emergency food at a nearby Concern-supported clinic, and with Lowiriyen's loving care and attention.
For the past three months, she has also received a monthly emergency cash transfer from Concern, which she uses mainly to buy food for her family and adopted goat. She also sets some money aside for the future in the local savings and loans association.
I appreciate the support I receive from the cash transfer. It allows me to live again and not have to worry about how I am going to feed my child - for a few more months, at least. I set aside some money from the cash I receive so that when the help stops I will have something to rely on.
Find out more about the resilient mothers of Marsabit.
7. Victoria Jean-Louis, Haiti
Victoria Jean-Louis is Concern’s Programmes Director in Haiti. She leads a team and together, they implement our programmes across the country.
It is difficult and complex work, and can be overwhelming. However, Victoria says: “I've learned to hold on to the things that are within our control and trust that the cumulative impact of all the work we do has the capacity to transform people’s lives.”
However, in Haiti disasters are often unpredictable.
On 14 August 2021, a devastating earthquake of 7.2 magnitude struck Haiti. It left over 2,200 dead, 12,000 injured and over 650,000 people in need of humanitarian aid. In the immediate aftermath, we ramped up our aid distribution operations to reach those left homeless, providing shelter kits, blankets and hygiene kits. Victoria and her team also had a wider role in the response, coordinating and working collaboratively with other organisations to gather data and analyse needs, and provided technical support.
8. Adrenise, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Adrenise took part in our Graduation programme in DRC. ‘Graduation’ refers to the movement of individuals or households out of extreme poverty and into food security and sustainable livelihoods. It is an innovative approach to addressing extreme poverty and rebuilding and transforming lives, livelihoods and communities.
Adrenise attended training sessions on entrepreneurship and income generation, which gave her a number of business ideas. Using a mixture of cash transfers and loans that she received through the programme, she invested in businesses such as goat rearing and trading oil, maize and cassava. She is using the extra income to build a new house, send her daughter to university and buy healthy and nutritious food for her family.
Before Concern’s project, I didn’t start these businesses because I just didn’t have enough money. The money has changed my life. It’s meant I can afford clothing, medicine, it’s helped with my children’s education and it’s helped us improve our nutrition.
You can read more about Graduation and the pathways out of extreme poverty here.
9. Nemiesta, Romania
Since February, millions of people have fled Ukraine to escape the conflict. A further 7 million have been displaced but have stayed in the country.
Most of the people crossing the border into neighbouring countries - and displaced within Ukraine itself - were (and still are) women and children. For International Women's Day in March, Nemiesta and other Romanian youth volunteers handed out flowers to women crossing the border in search of safety.
The refugees keep coming late into the night when temperatures deep below zero. Many drive but many more walk. And many had no idea of what is in front of them. This small act of solidarity and love may have made all the difference.
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