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"We give because we care enough": COVID-19 spreads kindness in Nigeria

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On World Kindness Day, a group of women in our programme in Nigeria show us how compassion can make the world a healthier, happier place.

2020 has been a year of crisis – but the COVID-19 pandemic has also provided countless examples of how difficult times can bring out the best in us. During this time of social isolation, we’ve seen a resurgence of kindness and community spirit, as people step up to help those around them.

The women we serve in conflict-affected countries have been dealing with multiple crises and hardships since before the pandemic hit. Poverty, gender inequality and violence pose constant threats to their lives and livelihoods, often leaving them isolated or ostracised. They know better than anyone the importance of solidarity in the face of adversity.

That’s why our 12-month training programme focuses on fostering friendships and strengthening support networks: because we know that connecting to others is a vital component of women’s social and economic empowerment.

Small acts of kindness and sisterhood can make a world of difference to someone who is struggling - and they play a critical role in creating healthy, resilient communities.

On World Kindness Day, we’re paying tribute to all the women in our programmes around the world who support each other through hardship and exemplify the power of compassion and collaboration.

One particularly inspiring example comes from a group of women participating in our programme in Kaduna state, Nigeria. The 25 women from Sabo community have taken the initiative to support vulnerable members of their community and improve access to essential services during the pandemic.

With COVID-19 creating severe disruptions to agriculture and supply chains, millions of the poorest Nigerians are facing shortages and rising prices for basic necessities. During the lockdown earlier this year, a survey of our programme participants in Nigeria revealed that 75.6% were experiencing reduced income due to the pandemic while 23.7% were no longer earning anything. In addition, 30% of women surveyed reported not having enough to eat, while 64% said that they only ‘sometimes’ had enough food.

Witnessing these increasing levels of hunger and deprivation, the Sabo women’s group pooled resources to buy essential supplies to support five widows from their village. These packages included soap, grain and packets of seasoning. Some group members contributed money to buy the items, while others donated maize from their own supply.

The women said they were inspired by their Women for Women International sponsors, who provided financial assistance to help fund their training, even though they did not know them

Members of the Sabo Women's Group in Nigeria give packages of essential items to widows in their community. Photo: Women for Women International

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the Sabo women’s group pooled resources to buy essential supplies for five widows from their village.

The leader of the Sabo group said: "In appreciation of the benefits and training we received, we felt it necessary to support these vulnerable women around us. We are all going through difficult times due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we consider ourselves more privileged than these widows because we received our monthly stipend from Women for Women International, even though the training programme was suspended due to the lockdown. What we have given to the women is not much, but it will help to alleviate their suffering a bit. It is a way of supporting our community during these hard times, as we were taught.”
Now that the lockdown has been lifted and in-person training has resumed, the group is continuing to expand their activities when they see a need in their community. Recently, they raised funds to donate three sets of chairs to the General Hospital – ensuring that visitors can sit in comfort when waiting to receive medical care. They also provided concrete gravel to improve access to the Primary Health Care Centre in Sabo.

One of the group members, Halima, told us: “We don’t give because we have enough, but because we care enough.”

While crises can fuel divisions and hostilities, let's remember that they also breed remarkable acts of compassion and generosity, as Halima and her friends have shown.

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