As 2021 begins, I feel compelled to focus on positivity and what gives me cause for hope. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone all over the world in one way or another, I believe that away from the spotlight there are women and girls leading positive change and now more than ever, we must hold hands as one to open doors for the next generation.
In poorer countries more than two-thirds of women work in informal jobs, toiling long hours without unemployment benefits. They’re not furloughed – if they don’t work, they and their families don’t eat.
On top of this, the UN secretary general warned of a “shadow pandemic” in July – the isolation and confinement of lockdown led to a surge in domestic violence, with women and girls unable to put distance between themselves and their abusers. There is no escape, physically or mentally.
Although it has been a dark year, some light has shone through in the form of women and girl leaders who are working tirelessly to rebuild a new world – a world that’s safe and equal. ActionAid Nigeria’s partner organisation Attah Sisters Helping Hand Foundation was dealing with a case of rape almost every day during the summer and supporting survivors, with no government funding.
ActionAid also worked with local women leaders to distribute food and hygiene kits to their communities. They fought the spread of misinformation by raising awareness of effective ways to contain the virus too.
A friend of mine, Dr Yolanda David, was out every single day with volunteers giving out food, toiletries and medical aid to as many as they could reach. Many other women I know dedicated their time to cook – going from one place to the other feeding those in need for months.
It is vital that we stand with the women and girls leading change around the world to address the inequalities that this terrible pandemic has deepened, and to protect the hard-fought rights of women and girls from future damage. We must listen to the issues they are facing, value their work and support their leadership. about:blankabout:blank
The festive period looks different this year and will be challenging for many. That’s why in an effort to beat the January blues, I’m coming together with some of the best comedians in the UK – and the world – for ActionAid and Latitude Festival’s first virtual stand-up comedy gig, Stand Up with Women, on 21 January, from 8pm to 10pm. As well as bringing some much-needed laughter, we’re supporting the international charity’s work in over 40 countries so that all women, everywhere, can create the future they want.