2020- The Year We Stood Together
Image by Izzy as part of artwork by our community on “Our Collective Power”
In March we made a decision to stay open and stand with the most vulnerable young women and girls in our community. We didn’t know what was going to happen or how it was going to work but we knew that whatever was coming we would face it together.
The response our community and network has demonstrated our collective power to transform lives even in the darkest of times.
Within days of the crisis we had launched an emergency response in the UK and Uganda that has gone on to meet the urgent needs of over 8,000 vulnerable young people across our community, protect 200 at-risk girls from grave harm whilst preserving the safety of hundreds more.
We saw the voices and priorities of young women, girls and other marginalised groups side-lined and forgotten in the response but our community stepped up again, bringing together over 1,000 advocates throughout the year to shape and agenda that leaves no one behind.
Diana’s story, shared earlier in the year (and below), shows us all the power of our collective action.
Young women like Diana and her enormous, chaotic family faced terrible uncertainty when this crisis began. After the passing of Diana’s mother, brother and sister, Diana became the primary care giver for her 16 nieces and nephews, as well as her own child. Thanks to her entrepreneurial efforts and resilience, life was hard but hopeful.
When the lockdown began Diana was suddenly unable to run her roadside business selling cooked chips and samosas. She faced a burden no young women should have to face alone.
“People were not buying any more, claiming not to have money during the lockdown. So, this made it so difficult to get food for the children. We only have one meal a day and that is only in the evening”
Thanks to the support of our network, Irise was able to stand by Diana during this dark time. We provided emergency relief and ongoing support visits to help her cope with the responsibilities she shoulders.
“Irise has supported my family… they have provided us with food, rice, posho, salt, soap and pads for the girls that I take care of. They have also given us knowledge on menstruation”
We have been humbled by her bravery and indomitable spirit. Now she is smiling again and looking forward to restarting her business and continuing to pursue her ambitions for her and her family.
“I hope to have a big business of my own which will support us all… see that all children under my care complete their education with proper qualification”
Together we have been able to give young women like Diana much more than a parcel. We have been able to stand with her and let her know that she is not alone and has not been forgotten. It is this powerful act that has put the smiles back on her and her family’s faces and has enabled her dreams and ambitions to weather the crisis.
Diana and her family
Looking forward to 2021, we’re building back better for women and girls. In Uganda, young women like Diana need ongoing support to get their businesses back on track, the girls she cares for need help getting back to school. In the UK, many of the women we support are facing similar intolerable choices to Diana, wondering how they will feed their children and meet their own needs in the months ahead.
This year’s Christmas appeal calls for those who are able to sign-up as a long-term ally of girls and young women like Diana. A monthly commitment of as little as £5 a month will enable Irise to help Diana rebuild her life and realise her ambitions. A one-off donation of £10 is enough to support another vulnerable woman or girl in the UK or Uganda with the urgent support she needs over the Christmas period and beyond. Make your donation here.
We are also inviting everyone to our virtual Gathering where we will unveil an art installation created by members of our wonderful community to celebrate our collective power in 2020. There will also be live comedy and games to lift us up during this unusual holiday season. To book your free ticket visit: www.irise.org.uk/the-gathering/
Wishing you the very best for 2021,
Emily Wilson, CEO Irise International