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2020 In Review

2020 in review

Last year, you helped transform the lives of thousands of women survivors of war. 

Read on to learn more about the results of your support.

Thank you for supporting women survivors of war in 2020

Last year, we were able to reach thousands of women across the conflict-affected countries we work in, amid the exceptional challenges and disruptions of a global pandemic.

For women already living in crisis situations, COVID-19 made life even more difficult and dangerous. Lockdown measures exacerbated food shortages, unemployment and financial insecurity. Rates of sexual and gender-based violence surged, while support services for survivors were cut back.

Despite this, because of your support, the women in our programmes have been able to access knowledge and power, build resilience, and drive positive change. We saw how the combination of vocational and business skills, health and rights awareness, and group support structures boosted our women participants’ ability to cope and to support each other though the COVID-19 crisis.

Our teams around the world adapted their ways of working to rapidly changing circumstances, working closely with women and their communities to deliver critical services, information and solidarity. With your help, we used innovative methods to reach and support women, such as online learning, messaging platforms and digital savings groups. We’re delighted that in most locations, we have been able to re-start our in-person training activities after lockdown suspensions, following recommended physical distancing and hygiene measures. 

Crises greatly exacerbate gender inequalities - but they also present a vital opportunity to accelerate change. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical importance of listening to women’s voices and investing in their potential as changemakers.

Thank you for being part of a year in which women survivors of war have led their families and communities through unprecedented hardships and uncertainties, towards a brighter future.

Here is a look back at what we achieved together in 2020!

Use these links to explore the page

Programme updates

Some key news on how we supported women in conflict-affected areas in 2020.

Women for Women International staff in Afghanistan, geared up to pack hygiene kits. Photo: Women for Women International

Response to COVID-19

The live-saving impact of your support

Your support has helped us provide women with the accurate information and health resources they need to prevent the spread of disease.

From handwashing to hygiene kits, women across the world are better prepared to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from COVID-19, with many drawing on the power and leadership they learned during the programme to educate others.

Change Agents in DRC
A group of Change Agents in Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Esther Nsapu

IMPACT EVALUATION IN DRC

24 month evaluation of our work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

In collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington, University of Texas at Austin, Marakuja Kivu Research, and the Innovative Hub for Research in Africa, our DRC team conducted a randomised controlled trial (RCT), the gold standard for rigorous evaluation.

The results of this study help us understand where our programme is leading to significant positive changes for women participants and lay out an exciting roadmap for how we can continue to improve our work and deepen our impact.

Saratu with her emergency package of hygiene items and food, provided during the COVID-19 lockdown with support from UK aid from the British people. Photo: Women for Women International
Saratu with her emergency package of hygiene items and food, provided during the COVID-19 lockdown with support from UK aid from the British people. Photo: Women for Women International

Our UK aid funded projects

With support from UK aid from the British people, we launched transformative, multi-year projects in Nigeria and the Democratic of Congo (DRC), which empowered thousands of women to rebuild their lives and lead change in their communities in 2020. Both projects also involved a key learning component focussing on how we can improve our programmes to meet the needs of women with disabilities.

Throughout the year, we followed the journeys of two project participants in northern Nigeria, Hassana and Saratu, who shared their experiences as they took part in the training and how COVID-19 was impacting their lives.

Hear from leaders around the world

Audry Shematsi, Country Director, Women for Women International - Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Audry Shematsi, Country Director, Women for Women International - Democratic Republic of the Congo.

WE ARE CONGOLESE WOMEN, AND WE ARE LEADERS

Audry Shematsi

Our Country Director in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Audry Shematsi reflects on 60 years of independence, power of women and progress towards gender equality.

Bukola Onyishi, Country Director, Women for Women International - Nigeria.
Bukola Onyishi, Country Director, Women for Women International - Nigeria.

IT'S TIME TO BREAK THE SILENCE AND STOP SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA

Bukola Onyishi

Buki Onyishi, Country Director of Women for Women International - Nigeria, speaks out on the pandemic that is plaguing her country: sexual violence.

Social empowerment training in Erbil, Iraq. Photo: Emily Kinskey
Social empowerment training in Erbil, Iraq. Photo: Emily Kinskey

TEACHING DURING THE PANDEMIC

Skalla, Noor and Sara

Three Women for Women International trainers from Iraq share their experience of teaching during a pandemic. 

How you made a difference

Thousands of you took part in campaigns and activities to support women survivors of war throughout 2020.

International Women's Day

#MessageToMySister

For International Women's Day 2020, we asked you to send a message of hope, friendship, and sisterhood to a woman survivor of war.

Thousands of you sent in messages and joined our global movement. Thank you so much for making a difference to the lives of women survivors of war.

#HopeInSisterhood

IN THESE CHALLENGING AND UNCERTAIN TIMES, THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY, HOPE AND FRIENDSHIP HAS NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT

In 2009, Amela enrolled on the Women for Women International programme, which provided support, training and community for women affected by the legacy of war. She was matched with a ‘sponsor sister’ from the UK, Brita Fernandez Schmidt, and they began to exchange letters.

16 Days of Activism

We are all activists and we all have the power to change the world, one woman at a time

One in three women experience violence during their lifetime, and in countries affected by conflict women are 50% more likely to experience domestic violence. Since the start of the pandemic, this violence has intensified.

Together, we can change this.

Women for Women International is generously supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery.

Our advocacy work

This is how we worked to amplify the voices of women survivors of war with decision-makers who have the power to create systemic change.

Programme participant - DRC
COVID-19 is amplifying inequalities and power disparities. Poverty, insecurity and gender-based violence are spiralling – and those who are already unheard and unseen will be hit the hardest. Photo credit: Ryan Carter

OUR AGENDA FOR ACTION FOR 2020 AND BEYOND

Marginalised women in fragile and conflict-affected states have been left behind the progress and ambitions of world leaders’ commitments. Our Agenda for Action sets out the five priority areas where we are calling for urgent action to achieve the changes needed for marginalised women affected by conflict.

Partnerships

Our partners play a key role in helping us achieve our mission.

Charlotte Tilbury

2020 was the one year anniversary of Charlotte Tilbury’s incredible £1 million pledge

As well as this life-changing donation, Charlotte Tilbury has continued to support the women we serve by participating in NET-A-PORTER’s IWD collection, the Virtual Car Boot Sale, hosting a makeup masterclass with our ambassador Niomi Smart and incentivising donations with a special Giving Tuesday competition.

Two of the twenty NET-A-PORTER t-shirts designed for their 20th anniversary this International Women’s Day.
Two of the twenty NET-A-PORTER t-shirts designed for their 20th anniversary this International Women’s Day.

NET-A-PORTER

2020, a year of impact

The year started off strong: NET-A-PORTER celebrated its 20th anniversary with an International Women’s Day collection of 20-t-shirts from 20 iconic female designers.

With 100% of profits from the collection being donated to Women for Women International, NET-A-PORTER continues to reinforce its commitment to support the empowerment of women affected by war and conflict. NET-A-PORTER built upon the success of their International Women’s Day collection by donating 20% of profits from their holiday collection, 100% of profits from their branded face coverings and launching a social media filter in support of women survivors of war.

Jimmy Choo creative director, Sandra Choi wearing the t-shirt from the NET-A-PORTER International Women
Jimmy Choo creative director, Sandra Choi wearing the t-shirt from the NET-A-PORTER International Women's Day collection

Jimmy Choo

A new committment

Following their participation in NET-A-PORTER’s International Women's Day collection, leading global luxury house Jimmy Choo committed to a 3-year partnership with Women for Women International. The partnership will include an annual company donation, employee engagement programme and a series of bespoke brand activations. In 2020, Jimmy Choo participated in the Virtual Car Boot Sale and raised an amazing $100,000 for our vital work through staff sales globally, helping women survivors of war to become successful entrepreneurs and inspire hope for the future.

Our Ambassadors and supporters

We are lucky to count on the support of our amazing Ambassadors and supporters.

St Andrews’ students hitchhiking to Valencia.
St Andrews’ students hitchhiking to Valencia.

St Andrews’ RAG

An incredible year of student fundraising

In 2019 – 2020, St Andrews Charities Campaign chose Women for Women International as their charity of the year and raised an amazing £22,770 for women affected by conflict. St Andrews’ students kicked off the year by organising an adventurous hitchhike to Valencia, followed by a fabulous catwalk. St Andrews Charities Campaign also participated in #MessageToMySister, sending important messages of hope to the women we serve.

"I first heard about Women for Women International when Hillary Clinton was interviewed by Christiane Amanpour at the Women for Women International Annual Luncheon in 2017."
"I first heard about Women for Women International when Hillary Clinton was interviewed by Christiane Amanpour at the Women for Women International Annual Luncheon in 2017."

Supporter Spotlight: Mira's Story

Mira Borggreen shares her experience of being part of the Women for Women International global sisterhood - from attending #SheInspiresMe LIVE 2.0 to becoming a sponsor and supporting a woman survivor of war.

Clarissa Ward is CNN’s chief international correspondent. In her fifteen-year career spanning Fox, CBS, and ABC, Clarissa has reported from front lines across the world. Photo: Kate Brooks
Clarissa Ward is CNN’s chief international correspondent. In her fifteen-year career spanning Fox, CBS, and ABC, Clarissa has reported from front lines across the world. Photo: Kate Brooks

Clarissa Ward

Announcing award-winning journalist Clarissa Ward as our newest Ambassador.

Our Ambassadors use their platform to raise the voices of the women we serve and shine a light on the issues faced by women in some of the world's most dangerous places. Clarissa could not be more perfect for the role, having reported from front lines across the world including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Ukraine. ⁠

She shares five tips for staying engaged and connected with the news, without getting overwhelmed by negativity.

Inspiring events

We held a variety of events throughout the year to raise funds to support women survivors of war.

Women for Women International held two Virtual Car Boot Sales in 2020.
Women for Women International held two Virtual Car Boot Sales in 2020.

Virtual Car Boot Sales

Born from the creativity and passion of the much-loved annual #SheInspiresMe Car Boot Sale, which was unable to take place this year in May as planned, this new online initiative was an opportunity to stay connected and raise funds for Women for Women International's work with women survivors of war during this pandemic.

The two Virtual Car Boot Sales were a phenomenal success raising over £165,000 for women survivors of war! 

#SheInspiresMe LIVE 2.0

#SheInspiresMe LIVE was back for a day of inspiring talks and interactive workshops: we brought our global community together, shared ideas and skills, and got energised to transform our world in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Together, we reflected on the unmissable opportunity we have to build a “new normal” for future generations. 

Our work in the press

Brita Fernandez Schmidt on SKY News

25 APRIL, 2020 | SKY NEWS

Brita Fernandez Schmidt, our Executive Director, talks about the effect of COVID-19 on women survivors of war with SKY News.

Marginalised women are being left behind in the coronavirus pandemic

7 MAY, 2020 | THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION

Brita Fernandez Schmidt, our Executive Director, talks about how 2020 was due to be the critical year for women's rights and how COVID-19 put it all on hold and left women and girls living in conflict-affected countries disproportionately impacted.

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A Stitch in Time Saves Lives

For the past few months during the COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of Women for Women International graduates in Rwanda have been putting their sewing skills to use as part of a local effort to provide more masks. As well as helping protect their local community, women are also earning an income despite the economic impacts of COVID-19.

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Over 4,700 Women Receive Critical Health & Hygiene Resources

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#AloneTogether with women in Iraq

Although Iraq is in lockdown our team continues to stay in touch with the women we serve. Shan, our Economic Empowerment Manager has been making calls and using social media to send women important news about health, government resources, and especially to make sure women know they aren’t alone.

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