Home » #QuarantineStories By Women And Young Women Creating Change
World YWCA women in all their diversity creating change
"In the midst of COVID-19 and the pandemic’s realities, women across the world have been facing new and worsening challenges every day. Despite threats to their mental and physical health, women of the YWCA continue to look out for their communities, families and themselves. Without their hard work, dedication and perseverance, the world would not be the same."

#QuarantineStories By Women And Young Women Creating Change

Stories compiled by World YWCA and article written by Ellie Schonberg

In the midst of COVID-19 and the pandemic’s realities, women across the world have been facing new and worsening challenges every day. Despite threats to their mental and physical health, women of the YWCA continue to look out for their communities, families and themselves. Without their hard work, dedication and perseverance, the world would not be the same. In this piece, you will hear the stories of YWCA women and young women, their struggles, work, and words of wisdom during crisis and learn how you too can become part of this movement, no matter how small the contribution. It is our hope to raise awareness, but also that you are inspired, motivated and uplifted by the stories below. – Ellie Schonberg

The right to health -including physical and mental health – is threatened every day for many women in all their diversity. Though many people faced risks to their physical wellbeing even before the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and lockdowns of entire communities have left many more people jobless, hungry and isolated. As described by a member of YWCA Lesotho:

“It is not hard to imagine that majority of families’ livelihoods have been adversely affected in Lesotho; forcing everyone to spend as little as possible to cover only basic expenses. The situation is worse for people living in the streets, a high percentage of which comprises children.”

Cases like the one described in Lesotho reflects the realities of many other countries across the world. The most vulnerable populations are living without basic necessities and are forced to make difficult choices about their family and themselves. A member of YWCA Ethiopia describes the difficulties of a single mom and provider to her family named Alem, explaining that:

“Covid-19 has uprooted her daily life. She is among the young women engaged in different informal trades in the nearby market area called Atkilt Tera. She used to make money by selling food to the vendors. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, the marketplace has been closed and she is not providing her family with food and other essentials while exposed to the virus.”

Alem is not alone in her struggles. Every single day, women across the world must make difficult decisions regarding their own health, their families’, and their communities. For some other individuals, maintaining access to their vital medications is becoming more difficult as the days go by. Bonolo, a 9-year-old girl from Lesotho on HIV treatment, along with her mother and her 11-year old brother, have been through unimaginable physical hardship during the pandemic. Her mother, who is no longer able to sell firewood at the local market, is having difficult time providing for Bonolo and her sibling. A member of YWCA Lesotho reports:

The family has been going for over 3 days without food; forcing Bonolo, her mother and her sibling to take their medication without food. Recently Bonolo’s mother has reported that her throat is sore from starvation. Bonolo’s family is one among the 2,100 households reported in dire need of help.”

Throughout this pandemic, it has become evident that there are many people barely maintaining their own physical health and well-being. Like Bonolo and her family, so many families and communities are doing all they can just to get by, even if that means skipping multiple meals a day.

The pain of this pandemic and quarantine manifests as threats to physical health for some, it is a strain on mental health for others. Not knowing what next week or next month will look like, many people across the world are facing their own mental struggles head on, and sometimes alone. A member of YWCA Nepal states:

“I am Roni, Young Women Lead from YWCA Nepal. I was very upset when I heard the news of people suffering and deaths due to COVID 19. Everywhere we keep hearing about increased numbers of positive cases of COVID 19 and increased numbers of deaths related to the virus. My mental health was disturbed day by day. I was sad as I could not think of the ways of helping people. I was mad at myself as I felt so helpless.”

Roni is not the only young woman feeling helpless deep inside her own mind, circling the uncertainty of the world day in and day out. Like Roni, many women are facing their mixed feelings of sadness, helplessness and fear. This pandemic reaches women across the world, affecting them all on different levels. Both physical and mental health are vital to survival and need to be address.  With little connection, women like Rajina of YWCA Nepal are feeling isolated and out-of-sync with the rest of the world:

“I am Rajina, Young Women Lead from YWCA of Nepal. I moved to my village home as soon as I heard of the first positive case of COVID 19 in Nepal. I thought the situation wouldn’t last long, but surprisingly, it has been increasing day by day and situation is getting worse. Since there was no internet connection in my village, I felt great loss as I could not communicate with people and could not access much information.”

Despite their threats to their physical and mental health every single day during the pandemic, women like Roni, Rajina, Alem and Bonolo keep going. They wake up every single morning, wherever that may be, and do their best to get by in these strange and dire conditions.

Following her feelings of helplessness, Roni states:

“Then, I thought of approaching to municipality and expressed how I wanted to volunteer to combat this pandemic. I volunteered in distributing crisis relief package to the needy families in coordination with local government in Thimi ward no.06.”

From there, Roni’s impact has only grown. Setting up a platform for youth to connect online, Roni has discovered, like so many others, the impact of human connection:

“I am now connected with a group in social media that provides online counselling. Youth are frustrated with the situation and they have no place to share their thoughts. So, that platform helps youth to express their emotions and provides counselling if needed and I am now part of that group. I listen to youth voices every day. I am their listening ears. I think even listening to people during this lockdown period is very helpful for their mental health. That’s what I have realised so far. I request everyone to find someone to talk to during this lockdown and do not let your emotions be suppressed. Let them be free.

Similarly in Bangladesh, 23 years old Sulogna Rema decided to take action and began serving her community through her local YWCA:

Sulogna Rema from YWCA Birishiri
Young woman leader Sulogna Rema from YWCA Birishiri

Like other countries, the pandemic has also spread in Bangladesh. As all educational institutes are closed now, I’m staying home in my village in Birishiri. I’ve been participating in different youth activities and programs of Birishiri YWCA. We have supported the community with disinfectant and with safety awareness campaigns about the coronavirus. I believe our good work may inspire and motivate the next generation of young people to serve others.

Despite their own struggles, Roni and Sulogna, like so many women of the YWCA, are determined to help others every single day, in any way they can.

Rajina in Nepal has reconnected with her parents and community and making sure others feel taken care of:

“During the daytime, I listen to my parents’ old stories. It is so fascinating to know about their teenage and youth life. Listening to parents’ stories and spending time with them has brought new closeness among us and new perception about life. Life treats you differently and this is what I felt when I hear my parents.”

I have started communicating with my relatives, neighbours and friends to check how they are keeping themselves well. This pandemic also taught me to be compassionate. With my my family we are helping people in need with what we have.”

This period of time has been rough. However, all of these women and young women learned something new about themselves, their communities and the world around them. These women supporting those within their communities and others across the world are taking part in initiatives that nurture a bigger movement of women that believe that there is always hope in the world, and that kindness and compassion is always worthwhile. As Casey Harden, General Secretary of the World YWCA states:

“ I hear and speak to more young women today, working on the frontline to provide care to vulnerable women stuck in lockdown, facing challenges, I am driven by the knowledge of how essential YWCAs are in communities around the world. You operate on the frontline, you answer the needs of your community, and you innovate on the go.”

These words speak magnitudes for the women working on behalf of the YWCA every single day. With more support, they can continue to make our communities better, safer and kinder places. The work of every YWCA woman is essential, priceless and understated. Without their work, more people would be hurting, hungry, and alone.

Will you become part of this movement? Donate today to the World YWCA #YWCACrisisReponseFund

Funds collected will be distributed to YWCAs working to support women & young women in their communities navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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