Girls celebrate togetherness at a MADRE workshop in Mali.
We are reaching the close of a tough year, and you might be feeling that the end of 2020 cannot come quickly enough.
Who could blame you? After months of a raging global health pandemic, violence on the streets, at home and around the world, and increasing climate catastrophe, many of us are exhausted. You might be wondering how to make sense of it all or how to choose what action to take to fix all the problems we see.
Thankfully, even during these hard times, invaluable lessons have emerged against a backdrop of hurt and struggle. These lessons have always guided our work with partners in communities worldwide facing war and disaster, and we offer them to you now — to help guide us all forward.
Partner with grassroots leaders.
Consider one of our partner groups in Palestine. Facing a surge in domestic violence, as pandemic lockdowns trapped people with their abusers, they acted in a way that only a group truly rooted in their community could. Using their personal networks, they activated online resources like WhatsApp and Facebook to connect with women and girls who needed them. They shared information and reached out with counseling to address the trauma of domestic abuse.
When we support local leaders, they’re able to set priorities, make decisions, and build necessary skills and resources that serve communities — in crisis and for the long haul.
Lesson 1: Support groups rooted in their communities.
COVID-19 made one point almost impossible to ignore: we are fundamentally connected to one another. So we need responses that are cooperative and coordinated. When we mobilize with partners around the world, we see the problem in full, and in turn, can devise better solutions.
That’s why this year, even as the pandemic made travel impossible, we doubled down on our connectedness. We created new spaces of exchange across borders for our partners. For instance, we held video calls that brought our partners together from across the Middle East and North Africa to exchange their expertise. They talked about how to build truly community-driven responses to crisis — like local farming initiatives to boost food supplies — and how to build coalitions to shape shared political demands.
By serving as the hub of a vibrant global network of local women activists, we can ensure that grassroots women’s innovations can be shared, adapted, and replicated where they are needed most.
Lesson 2: Support efforts to exchange ideas across borders, recognizing that the best strategies are both global and local.
When Hurricanes Eta and Iota slammed into Central America earlier this fall, the back-to-back storms devastated communities. MADRE took immediate action, sending emergency grants to help our partners in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua recover from the massive devastation to their homes and livelihoods — and protect people from COVID-19 in the aftermath, after being forced to evacuate to crowded shelters.
But we know there is much more to this story than one emergency. Look deeper, and you can see that the vulnerability in those Indigenous communities results from generations of discrimination that cuts them off from adequate services like housing and health care. That these intensified, more frequent hurricanes are triggered by climate breakdown, which is worsened by the policies of our own government.
That's why we go beyond humanitarian aid — we confront the root causes of crisis. We maintain lasting partnerships with grassroots leaders to mobilize community pressure to confront unfair systems and change policies, from the local to the global.
Lesson 3: Support efforts that get to the underlying causes of crises and move toward creating lasting change.
These examples provide just a snapshot of our ever-growing work to strengthen communities worldwide, work that became even more invaluable as we confronted a pandemic. They illustrate the resolve and innovation of grassroots women the world over who mobilize in the face of catastrophe to defend, sustain, and lead their communities.
Remember: we’re all in this together — you, MADRE and our partners worldwide. As we move into 2021, we’re grateful for those strong bonds between us that boost our resilience and solidarity.