The COVID-19 pandemic affected the world like no other disease, triggering a global economic and social crisis. While parts of economic and social life stand still as a result of lockdown measures, millions of people continue to face serious hardships. Women in particular face compounded burdens: they are overrepresented as health care workers, often continue to perform the majority of unpaid care work in households, and face higher risks of economic insecurity and increased exposure to violence, exploitation, abuse, or harassment.
It has repeatedly been said that the pandemic, like a magnifying glass, places additional focus and threats on those parts of the economy and society which were already in crisis or under strain prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. This is just as, if not even more so the case in Africa. Reflecting on this reality, the Voices of Resilience series sponsored by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung zooms in for a closer look especially on women and feminist struggles seeking to change their communities for the better. While state institutions and governments became either paralysed or frenetically invented aid programs which seemed to take forever to reach people in need, women activists organized themselves, fighting the effects of the pandemic with engagement and resilience.
The three books provide unique insight into the manifold struggles women face at the grassroots level in Uganda and in Kenya as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through text and photos, the books provide a vivid picture of the beauty of these women and the hardships of their everyday lives—but most importantly, it shows the creativity, courage, and resilience with which they meet these challenges and rise above them. They pay tribute to business solutions, activist struggles, challenges, and successes on a professional and personal level. Above all, they amplify the voices of women from a part of the world that is largely overlooked in the mainstream media.
The ongoing project Voices of Resilience, supported by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung East Africa, aspires to serve as a platform, archiving the lives of women adversely affected by the ongoing health and economic crisis. It aims to gather a wide variety of visual narratives on relevant themes related to the crisis. The ultimate goal is to create a stable space to gather meaningful materials that can in return facilitate attempts to understand what is happening, how, why, and how the aftermath can be addressed. The COVID-19 photobook project represents a collective memory that hopefully we can all learn from. The creation and selection of the photos that make up the books was a collaborative effort between multiple people including activists, subjects of the project, and professionals across East Africa. Each volume was produced in collaboration with an organization:
Voices of Resilience in Uganda was put together with the Uganda-based National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), which strengthens local communities and is committed to environmentally conscious development and environmental protection.
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Women Entrepreneurs’ Stories of Resilience amidst COVID-19 was produced with the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), a non-governmental organization working on trade, fiscal and development related issues for the realisation of sustainable development and improved livelihoods in Uganda, East Africa, and the African region.
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Women’s Struggles, Resilience and Power during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Kenya was made with the Coalition for Grassroots Human Rights Defenders (CGHRD), a Kenya-based social movement of grassroots activists, feminists and community organizers.
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