Supporting Women and Girls in Times of Crisis

Intimate partner violence, loss of income, and barriers to sexual and reproductive health care are some of the challenges facing women, girls, and LGBTQI people right now.

Young woman sitting on bed at hospital ward. Thoughtful female patient is looking away. She is wearing blue gown.

We know that women, girls, and marginalized communities suffer most in times of crisis. COVID-19 has exacerbated existing gender inequalities and revealed the ill-preparedness of governments, health systems, and social safety nets to respond the sexual and reproductive health needs of people worldwide. 

During this time of crisis, IWHC remains committed to our vision of gender justice. Ougrantee partners are on the frontlines combatting the pandemic. Our trust-based grantmaking approach puts power in their hands to deploy our funding where, when, and how they need it most. Despite ongoing shutdowns and economic uncertainty, we continue to make grants to our partners in every corner of the world.  

IWHC’s fearless advocacy continues at the global, regional, and local levels as we push for policies that respect human rights and prioritize the unique needs of women, girls, and marginalized communities, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic but long after we return to “business as usual.”  

Time and again, feminists have proven they can confront any challenge. As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, the expertise, innovation, and dedication of the global feminist movement provides hope that we can emerge with a stronger, more just, and equal world.  

In the meantime, IWHC will continue to support our global community as we navigate these challenging times, together.  

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Stories from the Frontline: IWHC's Global Partners

IWHC grantee partners around the world continue to fight for women's health and rights throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Ensuring a Critical Health Clinic Stays Open in Brazil 

In Brazil, where abortion is only legal in a few circumstances, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to clinic closures. When the main abortion clinic in São Paulo was closed in a purported attempt to combat the virus, Brazilian feminists immediately mobilized to re-open the clinic and ensure abortion services could continue. IWHC grantee partners Centro Feminista de Estudos e Assessoria (CFEMEA) and Grupo Curumim, among others, led a campaign that alerted the media and mobilized São Paulo’s public defenders and prosecutors as well as the Bar Association of the State of São Paulo, resulting in the clinic reopening three days later. They continue to apply pressure on the government and mobilize over social media to ensure that clinics in every region continue to provide critical abortion care to people in need.

Defending Abortion Rights in Poland 

In Poland, which is home to Europe’s most restrictive abortion policy, the hyper-conservative government is trying once again to enact a total ban. Feminists—including IWHC grantee partner the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning—have successfully fought previous anti-abortion legislation through mass protest and have once again mobilized, finding innovative ways to demonstrate against the proposed legislation while honoring COVID-19 related restrictions on movement and group gatherings. Tactics have included protesters using their cars to block a main roundabout in Warsaw, hanging banners or black umbrellas (a sign of feminist protest) from car windows and balconies, and daily Twitter storms targeting Members of Parliament. IWHC and more than 100 other groups have issued a letter urging Polish Parliament to reject the bill. Though the outcome of the bill remains uncertain, Polish feminists have clearly demonstrated that the power of protest continues through the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Supporting Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in South Africa  

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased rates of domestic violence worldwide. Now more than ever, survivors need support, counseling, and services. In South Africa, IWHC’s grantee partner Masimanyane is continuing to provide both virtual and in-person services to their communities. They have shifted their community counseling and paralegal services to virtual sessions, and continue to manage their 24-hour rape containment services and shelters for survivors.  


Protecting Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care in India 

In India, IWHC’s grantee partner Sama is ensuring the physical and mental well-being of their communities, especially the most marginalized, by sharing information about the pandemic and access to servicesSama is also playing a critical advocacy role. Working both individually as part of feminist collectives, Sama is working with state and national governments to ensure that the Indian response to the pandemic addresses gender inequalities.  

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Providing Masks for Essential Workers in Kenya 

In Kisumu, Kenya, IWHC grantee partner the Kisumu Medical and Education Trust (KMET) is on the frontlines combatting the pandemic. Though Kenya is on lockdown and a national curfew is in place, KMET is working diligently to ensure the communities they serve continue to have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services—and are using their 24-hour hotline to communicate with adolescents and young women in need of abortion care. KMET has also refurbished their vocational school into a factory where they create masks—a local solution to a nation-wide shortage.  

Learn More: Gender Justice and COVID-19

Sexual and Reproductive Health During COVID-19

By Colleen Marcoux

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing gender inequalities and further reduced access to critical health services. As the virus continues to spread, we detail its impact on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Trust-Based Grantmaking in the Time of COVID-19

Interview with Jessie Clyde

An interview between IWHC's Jessie Clyde and the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project on how these practices have changed our work with grantees and funders.

COVID-19 Could Set Women Back Decades on Gender Equality

By:  Alison Holder

How the COVID-19 pandemic is further exposing the existing systematic gender inequality globally.

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