By Beth O’Connell
IWC vice president and UUFP member
As a global organization focused on empowering women and girls, the International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women, or IWC, became aware of the unique challenges facing women in this COVID-19 pandemic.
The impact of the health crisis could clearly be seen in IWC’s new in-country partnership with Acacia in Kenya. This non-profit works with community leaders in Mumias (western Kenya) to care for, shelter, and educate young women who might otherwise not have the opportunity to attend high school.
But the pandemic closed the schools.
Pandemic Help to Teenage Girls in Kenya
Now picture, if you will, a teenage girl in Kenya back at home. She has to take over her mother’s role in the household because most mothers need to go out and do some sort of work to support the family. In the village, and maybe even in her own house, the young woman finds herself vulnerable to male predators.
Added to this is something Western women and girls would never think of: a young Kenyan woman is less able to manage her menstruation because of a massive shortage of menstrual hygiene products, limited mobility, stress and anxiety, and lack of access to water and sanitation.
In less than two months, in response to these conditions, IWC raised over $1,500 for Acacia in Kenya. This helped to provide much-needed COVID-19 relief efforts, including sanitary pads, water buckets, soap, and masks, as well as awareness-raising sessions on COVID-19 and on how to prevent teenage pregnancies and early marriages. (Click here for a video about Acacia on the IWC website.)
Bi-Weekly Tuesday International UU Women’s ZOOM Gatherings
During the lock-down, IWC also launched a Zoom gathering for UU women joining from around the world to discuss the new challenges engendered by the pandemic and to offer support and solidarity. If you wish to join the Tuesday bi-weekly gatherings of UU women, you can send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
IWC Work So Far
In addition, this year IWC is celebrating its 10th anniversary and a decade of involvement in women’s rights and empowerment, working with UU and Unitarian communities in countries such as India, the Philippines, Bolivia, Uganda, and Romania (Transylvania). This YouTube video sums up IWC’s work so far, including its consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
EUU has generously given donations to the IWC, and if you or your fellowship would like to make a contribution, please contact me, IWC vice president Beth O’Connell, at email@example.com, or visit our new website. March 8 is International Women’s Day and an ideal time to show global sisterhood support.