The shock of a global pandemic is still reverberating around the world. While everyone is affected, women have been dealt a devastating blow.
As quarantine measures shutter schools and day-care facilities, women often shoulder the burden of balancing work with childcare and homeschooling. Social distancing deprives them of the support they could normally lean upon.
More: UN Women reports on the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women.
But women are far from defeated.
This International Women’s Day, we wanted to honour this strength. We invited 11 women, aged 18 to 91, to sit for a portrait and conversation. In the midst of challenge, their strength is undeniable. Their resilience is inspiring and their faith, unshakeable.
Who are these women? Take a look.
They are all around us.
Angelita, 91, Ecuador
“Everything happened very fast. My children told me that I could not leave the house. One day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked up the mountain. Empty streets. It was as if all the people had disappeared. I’m afraid of not knowing what will happen to my children and grandchildren. I don’t have many years left to live, but my grandchildren’s lives are just beginning.
I want a world of peace, without discrimination, without evil. A world where men and women are treated the same and where there is no more violence against women. Women, we are like roses: beautiful, unique and special. Our thorns are life lessons and the challenges that we overcome every day. Our destiny is to fight and grow with the sunlight, no matter how intense the wind or rain is.”
Anne, 44, Kenya
“I’m a teacher, but because the schools closed, we had to stay home without work. Because I was the breadwinner, the stress of the situation gave me stomach ulcers. It really broke my heart knowing that I was not going to be able to provide for my family.
The church and Compassion team have made us feel like we are part of a big family. One thing a family does is pray together. They have been praying for us, for our families and for our kids. I would like my children to be God-fearing kids because with God, everything is possible. And when they have His Word in their hearts, they can do everything.”
Shokhina, 70, Bangladesh
“I have always lived a life with less, having been born into a poor family. However, the pandemic has taught us that if we think that we have faced our worst, then we are wrong: the worst can get even uglier. But one thought remains unchanged: our hope and trust in the Almighty.
The registration of my grandchildren into Compassion’s program is a blessing from God. It gives me goosebumps to even think about how our time would have gone in the first three months of the pandemic if it weren’t for my grandchildren’s registration.”
Becky, 29, Canada
“Throughout my pregnancy and the newborn months of our daughter’s life, I’ve often found myself grieving and readjusting the expectations I had for this season of life. I’ve had to attend each midwife, ultrasound and doctor’s appointment alone, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
This year was made more challenging when my husband’s dad passed away and we couldn’t say goodbye to him due to lockdown rules—a tragedy I know that many other families have also experienced this year.
The uncertainty has forced me to become more grateful for the things I can be sure of, such as God’s love, and the love I have for my family and friends.”
Danielly, 38, Brazil
“The history of Black people in Brazil has always been one of struggle, but we have always added music and joy to our journey. Even with all the challenges that the pandemic has brought us or increased, I can still dream of better days. Capoeira [Afro-Brazilian martial art] teaches me that.
I know things will take a while to get back to normal, but I trust God and I know that He is guarding us all. I don’t want an easy world for my daughters. After all, challenges also help us grow. I want them to be strong and proud of who they are.”
Maharti, 40, Indonesia
“I would typically get orders to make around three pieces of ulos fabric each month. During the early months of COVID-19, fabric orders hit the bottom ground. In my neighbourhood, most of the women are housewives. When the pandemic came and their husbands [started] losing their jobs, it hit the family hard.
In these challenging times, knowing I can help my husband generate income for our family is special to me. The younger generation nowadays has a little interest in what I do, so this ulos weaving technique is facing the threat of extinction. I hope that I can pass on what I know to my daughter.”
Ashlea, 34, United States
“If I had to choose one word to describe women, I’d choose ‘stubborn’. ‘Stubborn’ gets a bad rap, but [I mean] the stubborn resilience where you’re just going to get things done. Women just get stuff done.
I believe we can challenge our society to change in a way that positively benefits women through our particular sphere of influence. I’m a mom and a teacher. That’s my sphere of influence. I will be able to influence my daughter to be a strong woman. I will influence my son and teach him how to respect women and to not have a negative bias towards women.”
Yhovana, 33, Bolivia
“When the pandemic hit, I had practically nothing: no supplies or milk for my children. They hadn’t paid my husband at work and then they fired him. In the first days of the pandemic, we didn’t have food. Our breakfast was water with cinnamon.
I decided to help out on a pig farm. We received chicken guts to feed the pigs. So, I collected the nicer intestines to bring them home to my children, to cook and eat. Thanks to the Lord, the church supported me at the right moment. When we didn’t have anything to eat, they came with a big chicken, and we ate meat for the first time in a long time.
I have seen that God always provides and helps us. We move ahead with God’s help.”
Beatrice, 33, Burkina Faso
“Women face a lot of issues in my community. There are no formal jobs for women—they must stay at home or run small businesses to support their families. I am very lucky to have the opportunity [through Compassion] to know how to weave and make local fabric. I praise God that my life has a purpose since I am more productive.
Before COVID-19, my husband used to come back late from work in the evening and the kids used to go to bed without seeing their father. But during quarantine, we had more time together as a family. That is something positive that has come from the crisis.”
Lara, 41, Australia
“It was easy to become fearful when we heard about COVID-19. I had to spend time with God and trust His promises and His word. Joy is more than emotion. Joy is a choice. I think joy is a result of choosing to trust in the goodness of God’s character. Joy isn’t dependent on the circumstances or situation. I think joy is a gift and we can also choose to give it away.”
To mark International Women’s Day, Compassion Canada’s Allison Alley and Compassion Australia’s Clare Steele hosted a conversation on Facebook Live.
Words by Zoe Noakes, Compassion International.