Hand in Hand partners with Fund for Innovation in Development to evaluate the impact of a project to boost Tanzanian women’s incomes by engaging with communities to shift gender norms

Hand in Hand, in partnership with Fund for Innovation in Development (FID), is launching a three-and-a-half year project to find out whether it’s enough to train women in business skills to increase their income, or whether engaging with the community to challenge the idea of what a ‘woman’s role’ can be will boost women’s incomes even further than with business skills training alone. Innovation for Poverty Action (IPA) will be the project’s research partner.

In one of the largest randomized control trials (RCT) of its kind in East Africa, the project will develop and expand the body of evidence that shows shifting restrictive gender norms in communities can increase women’s incomes and savings.

Women in rural Tanzania face significant barriers when it comes to earning a living. They lack skills, resources, market connections and access to credit. Crucially, the majority are unable to make their own decisions about things such as healthcare, visiting friends or household purchases without their husband’s permission. What’s more, women are expected to be solely responsible for domestic labour and caregiving, leaving them little time to run a business. In many communities, a woman working is seen as threatening the man’s position as the breadwinner of the family.

When we involve the community in breaking down the social attitudes that hold women back, we see women with the power and time to take their businesses to the next level, women can increase the family’s income, creating a better life for everyone.

The FID funded project, will reach 4,800 participants (80% of whom are women). The RCT  will test the effectiveness of Hand in Hand’s existing training four-step model against an enhanced five-step training model that includes gender training.

Hand in Hand’s existing four-step model seeks to break down the barriers to women’s economic inclusion by providing women with business skills training, access to credit and support to reach new value chains. On average, these interventions yield a remarkable 100% increase in women’s incomes within three years.

The enhanced  five-step model (with the gender component) goes one step further – actively involving men and local leaders to create supportive communities where men act as champions for women’s entrepreneurship, recognizing that, when men and women work together, they stand a better chance at beating poverty. Implemented across 144 villages in the Dodoma and Singida regions of Tanzania, the intervention, and its randomized impact evaluation will be overseen by Principal Investigator Jessica Goldberg (University of Maryland).

Dorothea Arndt, CEO at Hand in Hand International, said: “All too often, women in disadvantaged, rural communities are told their place is at home, not running a business. By working with men and communities to challenge deeply entrenched social norms, we’re changing the rules of the game for women entrepreneurs, kickstarting a transformation that will lead to greater equality and brighter futures for thousands of families.

“The study’s results will tell us whether it is possible to grow women entrepreneurs’ income by engaging the community around them to shift their perception of ‘a woman’s work’. Our established training has already enabled women to double their incomes – this study will show if we can go even further. The findings will not only guide the effective implementation of our own programmes, but will also be shared with the many government agencies currently implementing livelihood programmes across Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Juliette Seban, FID Executive Director, said: “By investing in innovative programmes and their impact evaluation like this one, we support the generation of new  evidence on what works when it comes to tackling poverty, empowering NGOs and governments to adopt interventions that have proven to be effective. With one in four women being an entrepreneur in Africa, learning from this project has a strong potential to catalyze change on a much broader scale.”

Claudia Casarotto, Chief Global Programs Officer – Innovations for Poverty Action, said:

“Our research consistently shows that gaps remain in understanding the comprehensive impact of women’s economic empowerment strategies. This project uniquely integrates financial inclusion with community efforts to shift gender norms, directly addressing these gaps. By evaluating this holistic approach, we aim to generate robust evidence on how these combined strategies can effectively enhance women’s incomes and economic autonomy. The findings will inform policy and practice, contributing valuable knowledge to global poverty alleviation strategies and empowering policymakers and practitioners to implement proven, impactful interventions.”

Hand in Hand and Cartier Philanthropy project boosts Tanzanian women entrepreneurs’ incomes by $59 a month

A three-year trial conducted by Hand in Hand between 2020 and 2023 to support women to launch and run profitable businesses has helped create 457 businesses and 545 jobs in some of Arusha’s most disadvantaged communities – with women increasing their incomes by an average of 117% (USD 59.72 per month).

As well as providing 600 women with business skills training, mentoring and supporting them to access credit and reach larger markets, the programme also incorporated a gender-specific training module that sought to address and challenge the restrictive social norms and attitudes that prevent women from succeeding as entrepreneurs and run profitable businesses.

The programme also improved women’s financial resilience, with 65% participants saying they would be able to deal with a financial shock, such as an unexpected medical bill, without selling assets or borrowing money​.

As part of the trial, evaluated by International Center for Women’s Research (ICRW) and funded by Cartier Philanthropy, the partners and husbands of 300 women were also enrolled in gender-specific training – designed to shift men’s ideas about what a women’s role can be, as well as couples’ sessions where husbands and wives explored issues together.

In many communities, it’s believed a woman working outside the home undermines the man’s position as the family’s breadwinner. Women are also expected to be solely responsible for domestic work and childcare, leaving them little time to run a business.

Boosting savings and decision making

In a survey of 182 couples, ICRW found that providing male partners with additional gender-specific training improved women’s decision making within the home – with 62% of women able to make decisions about the things that matter to them, such as visiting family or friends, healthcare or household purchases – compared to 45% in the group where men did not take part in the workshops.

ICRW also found that engaging men had a significant impact on the amount of money women entrepreneurs were able to save, with women whose partners had taken part in the gender-specific training increased their savings by 49% – compared to women whose partners did not take part, whose savings decreased by 43%.

Changing attitudes in the home

Typically, women spend six to eight hours a day on unpaid domestic work​, which is why Hand in Hand worked with men to help them develop an understanding of a woman’s workload – as well giving them the skills to help with household tasks.

According to ICRW’s findings, men who had taken part in the gender-specific training reported spending approximately one hour more per day on domestic work – including household chores and care for children. Men who had not taken part in the training said they spent an hour less on household tasks and caring.

Both men and women had more gender-equitable attitudes at the end of the programme – with participants less likely to agree with statements such as ‘men should have the final word in disagreements’. Men who had taken part in the gender-specific training were more likely to hold equitable attitudes than men who had not. Moreover, women whose husbands had participated in the gender-specific training also experienced more positive shifts in gender attitudes, compared to women whose husbands who had not.

Hand in Hand Tanzania CEO, Jane Sabuni, said: “In the traditional societies we work within, the idea of a woman earning an income can be seen as threatening to a man’s status and position. Through this innovative field trial, we’ve successfully worked with communities to challenge attitudes that make it tough for women to earn money – with men even taking on a greater share of domestic tasks so their wives can spend time running their business.”

Hand in Hand International CEO, Dorothea Arndt, said: “We have been able to increase women’s incomes by an average of USD 59 a month in some of Arusha’s most deprived places.

“Women entrepreneurs can’t achieve their full potential unless their families and communities are behind them, but a shift in how women’s roles are perceived takes time. We know change rarely happens unless it’s driven from the ground up – so at the start of the project we engaged with clan leaders, church leaders and local government representatives – showing them the benefits of men and women working together as a team to boost their family’s incomes.”

Pascale de la Frégonnière, Strategic Advisor to the Board, Cartier Philanthropy, commented: “Deconstructing the traditional idea of masculinity is part of the challenge of empowering women across the world. Changing deeply engrained gender norms takes time. This field trial, which is also being implemented in Rwanda by Women for Women, aimed to fill a gap and start building the evidence base we will need if we want to engage men in a meaningful way to achieve gender equity.”

Emily Schaub, Women’s Economic Empowerment Specialist at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), said: “The findings from this trial suggest that men’s engagement has an important role to play in attaining more equitable gender norms and attitudes about men’s and women’s roles. These attitudes in turn can be facilitators of an environment that enables and supports women’s economic and social empowerment.”

 

87% of Hand in Hand’s women entrepreneurs now have the power to make their own decisions

New data from Hand in Hand shows, after taking part in the charity’s entrepreneurship training, 87% of women participants in Kenya, Tanzania and Afghanistan said they were able to have a say about decisions that affect them, such as household purchases, family visits and healthcare. On average, just 40.3% of women in these countries reported that they were able to participate in household decision making (World Bank).

Hand in Hand provides women entrepreneurs with the skills and confidence to create businesses that lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.

Results from a sample of 9,000 most recent Hand in Hand programme graduates (from Tanzania) also showed that, on average, women entrepreneurs more than tripled their monthly profit (+322%)

The charity operates in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities – where food insecurity is widespread. This income boost enables programme members to provide regular, nutritious meals for their families, pay for their children’s education and afford vital healthcare. In the last five years Hand in Hand International has supported the creation of 285,000 enterprises, transforming the lives of over a million people.

The data also showed that, despite an initial dip in earnings at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, (particularly in Kenya, which saw more frequent and prolonged periods of lockdown) taking part in Hand in Hand programmes enabled participants to weather the Covid-19 crisis, reporting no significant reduction in income, even as the pandemic devastated economies across the world.

Crucially, the programmes also enabled women to become more financially resilient – with 40% of participants across all programmes saying that they would be able to get through a financial shock, such as a bad harvest or unexpected medical bill, without having to sell an asset or get into debt.

Businesses were sustainable, with 88% of all micro enterprises still operational one year after launch.

Hand in Hand CEO, Dorothea Arndt, said: “In the communities we operate within, women face enormous barriers to equality – constrained by unwritten rules that restrict what they spend their time doing, and who they can see and talk to.

“Our programmes don’t just give women the skills to start their own businesses, the money they earn and the confidence they gain helps them to speak up and make decisions in the home, too.

“Increasingly, we are seeing women entrepreneurs taking up leadership roles within their communities – something that had previously been unheard of. We’re also developing a new strand of our programming to engage with men to shift their perceptions around what a woman’s role ‘should’ be.”

87% of women with the power to make their own decisions

285,000 small businesses launched

Average 322% percent increases in monthly income

Boeing launches new project to fight poverty and tackle the stereotypes that hold women back

Boeing and Hand in Hand are launching a new project in Arusha Region, Tanzania to support women to beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs, lifting 600 families above the poverty line. The project will work closely with women, men and with the wider community to challenge traditional attitudes towards women’s roles that prevent women from earning and controlling their own incomes, and from having a say at home or in their communities.

Arusha Region has some of the highest levels of poverty in the country. Record droughts in the country have resulted in increased food insecurity, which is particularly acute in rural areas like Arusha where most people depend on what they can grow to feed their families. Tanzanian women earn, on average, a third of what men do. They are also expected to be solely responsible for domestic work and childcare, leaving little time to earn an income.

This project will give women the skills and confidence to start their own businesses, as well as working with their husbands, fathers, brothers and male community leaders to shift cultural expectations around what a woman’s role should be.

The project is just a part of Boeing’s commitment to transforming the lives of women and young people in rural Tanzania. Working with Hand in Hand, they expect to create 4,000 jobs for women and young people by 2025, lifting 10,000 people out of poverty.

Jane Sabuni, CEO at Hand in Hand Tanzania, said: “Women can play a crucial role in helping households escape poverty but many are constrained from earning an income by longstanding cultural norms. By working with men, we show them that when women are able to work outside the home they can contribute to the family finances and everyone benefits.”

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President of Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), said: “We know when women are given the skills and confidence they need to become leaders, whole communities benefit. Boeing’s partnership with Hand in Hand is just one of the ways we are working to tackle gender inequality and help women reach their full potential.”

Hand in Hand CEO, Dorothea Arndt, said: “By investing in women’s skills and potential, Boeing is transforming the lives of thousands of Tanzanian families, and we are enormously grateful for their ongoing support.”

Giving women the confidence to lead: Boeing project transforms lives in rural Tanzania  

A two-year project in Arusha Region, Tanzania that gives women the skills and confidence they need to launch their own enterprises has lifted more than 1,600 people out of poverty, as well as giving 542 women vital leadership skills.

The scheme was delivered by Hand in Hand East Africa and funded by Boeing.

In rural Arusha, the majority of the women we work with live below the poverty line. Because of the training, women participants’ average monthly wage increased from USD 1.53 to USD 45.20.

One of the most important parts of the programme is the leadership skills component, which gives women the confidence to speak up and make their voices heard. After the training, 86 percent of the women we asked said they are now able to make decisions for themselves both at home and within their businesses, an increase of almost 30 percent. Many of these women are now also stepping up to take on leadership roles within their communities.

The project is just a part of Boeing’s commitment to transforming the lives of women and young people in rural Tanzania. Working with Hand in Hand, they expect to train more than 4,000 women and young people by 2025 creating 4,000 jobs and lifting 10,000 people out of poverty.

Jane Sabuni, Tanzania Country Manager for Hand in Hand Eastern Africa, said: “As literacy in the area is low, our trainers use oral storytelling techniques to teach leadership skills. These skills don’t just help women succeed in business, they give them the confidence to make have their say when it comes to household spending, their children’s education, and the issues in the community that matter to them.”

Hand in Hand CEO, Dorothea Arndt, said: “When women earn and control their own incomes we see a reduction in household poverty and vulnerability to financial shocks. By investing in women’s skills and potential Boeing is transforming the lives of thousands of Tanzanian families, and we are enormously grateful for their ongoing support.”

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President of Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), said: “At Boeing, we are committed to building better communities worldwide through focused investment that help break poverty cycles. Empowering women can bring paradigm shifts towards economic growth. We’re proud of our five year old partnership with Hand in Hand.”

Hand in Hand Afghanistan appoints new Executive Director

After 10 years as Executive Director of Hand in Hand Afghanistan, Abdul Rahim Nasry will be stepping down from the role, with Dr. Kamran Hekmati being appointed as his successor.

Dr Kamran Hekmati has served as Programme Manager, Program Director and, since January, as Deputy Executive Director of Hand in Hand Afghanistan. Abdul Rahim Nasry will continue to work closely with Hand in Hand Afghanistan in an advisory role.

Abdul Rahim Nasry said: “It’s been an enormous privilege to serve as Executive Director at Hand in Hand Afghanistan and play my part in supporting so many people to lift themselves and their families above the poverty line through entrepreneurship and hard work.

“I’d like to thank my colleagues at Hand in Hand and our generous donors and funders – together we have transformed thousands of lives for the better. I am delighted that our own Dr Kamran Hekmati has been appointed to lead Hand in Hand Afghanistan as Executive Director and am confident that under his leadership the organisation will continue to go from strength-to-strength.”

Dr Kamran Hekmati said: “Since its inception Hand in Hand Afghanistan has supported over 50,000 people to set up sustainable, profitable microenterprises – changing 390,000 lives in the process. I’m excited to lead Hand in Hand Afghanistan in this next stage of its journey, and, working with our donors and stakeholders, look forward to reaching more communities, creating more jobs and helping to build better futures for even more families.”

Dorothea Arndt, Hand in Hand International CEO, said: “Hand in Hand Afghanistan’s success is testament to Nasry’s skillful leadership and his commitment to helping people beat the odds and find their own route out of poverty. We wish him all the best for the future. I’d also like to congratulate Dr Kamran Hekmati on his new role – to which he will bring many years of expertise.”

Increasing resilience in the face of skyrocketing costs

In the last few years Kenya has seen a 70 percent drop in crop production, with an estimated 3.1m people in acute hunger, now in need of aid. As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the situation has worsened, with disruption to global supply chains causing the price of grains, oil, gas, and fertiliser to skyrocket.

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa CEO, Albert Wambugu, explains how the country’s poorest are bearing the brunt of the crisis – and how Hand in Hand is supporting its members on the ground.

Poor yields and food insecurity

“There are a number of reasons why crop production is falling overall in Kenya,” Albert explains. “Growing conditions here are extremely variable. You might have pockets where the land is fertile – and then areas where the soil quality is degraded, and rainfall is low.”

Maize is the country’s staple crop – but soil degradation and drought is affecting the ‘breadbasket’ regions where it is grown. Some of the commercial fertilisers used here are extremely acidic, and have damaged the soil. Albert says: “When the crops fail, people become reliant on food aid. Some families survive on as little as 2kg of maize a week,” Albert says.

Ukraine war causes price rises for staple goods

Because of the crisis in Ukraine, Kenyans are seeing price rises across the board. “The increasing price of fuel is very noticeable,” says Albert. “There’s been a 30% increase in less than one year.”

People in poverty spend a greater percentage of their income on food. For the very poorest, food price increases will result in adults skipping meals, or subsisting only on staples. “Cooking oil has doubled in price. When costs go up like this, the only thing people can focus on is putting food on the table. You would not be able to afford a balanced diet,” says Albert. “Protein from fish, for example, would be inconceivable.”

Cost of living increases can impact members’ enterprises too. Albert explains it’s almost impossible for people to prioritize saving when times are tough, or to spare the funds to invest money back into their businesses.

Strengthening resilience

To combat the hunger crisis, Albert’s team provide training on a range of sustainable farming techniques that improve soil quality as well as increasing yields.

“We tell our members there will always be things outside your sphere of influence, like supply chain volatility and weather changes. But there are things you can do to offset these – like crop diversification, or by using fertiliser that improves the soil instead of harming it. When you don’t know when the next rainfall will be, even something as simple as a water storage butt makes a difference. We teach people to adapt to their environment. Root crops like arrowroot contain more starch than maize and are easier to grow, so it might be a question of changing your dietary habits.”

They also focus on improving members’ financial resilience.

“We train people to set aside some of their income where possible, because savings are an important way of mitigating the impact of financial shocks. As we’ve seen during the pandemic, and now with the Ukraine crisis, this is vital. More recently, we have introduced our members to insurance. Only 3% of Kenyans have insurance,” Albert explains. “So we are working with providers to create new financial products that meet our members’ specific needs”

The team also encourage people to save in self-help groups. “When self-help groups are strong they can lend when things aren’t going well and, unlike some banks, don’t charge exorbitant rates of interest.”

Despite the challenging circumstances, Albert believes that the team at Hand in Hand Eastern Africa will continue to make a difference to the women they work with – and alleviate food insecurity.

“By giving women the tools they need to lift themselves and their families out of extreme poverty, we are able to strengthen their resilience so they can weather this global crisis.”

“The farmers we train will also have an important role to play in safeguarding food security within their communities, as well as restoring the soil so it remains productive for future generations.”

 

Boeing to transform the lives of 1,620 entrepreneurs in Tanzania with Hand in Hand International

Boeing and Hand in Hand have been teaming up since 2018 to help communities in Tanzania work their way out of poverty and start businesses – transforming thousands of lives in the process.

By 2023, Boeing and Hand in Hand will have trained more than 3,400 women and young entrepreneurs, creating more than 3,000 jobs and delivering long term economic impact for families and communities.

Launched in January 2021, the latest Boeing – Hand in Hand project trains farmers in Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania as agri-entrepreneurs, raising incomes and protecting the local environment in the fight against climate change. By extending the project for an additional 12-months, Boeing will support the training of a further 720 community members, reaching 1,620 entrepreneurs in total – 90 percent of them women.

Members of the project will become specialists in regenerative agriculture, an approach to farming that takes carbon out of the air and puts it back into the soil, improving both yields and the local environment.

By the time their training in areas such as composting, crop diversification and livestock management is complete, project members are expected to see an average 25 percent boost in income – money that will help fund education, healthcare and improved nutrition for more than 4,500 women, men and children.

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President of Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), said: “We feel privileged and committed to continue our partnership with Hand in Hand in Tanzania. Boeing’s sustained involvement and long-term investment in local communities represents one of the many steps we take together to connect the world and make it a better place for future generations.”

Jane Sabuni, Tanzania Country Manager for Hand in Hand Eastern Africa, said: “With Boeing’s help, farmers’ plots are transitioning from surviving to thriving. The regenerative agriculture techniques they adopt are increasing women’s incomes and the productivity of their farms. As a result, we are seeing greener lands, improved food security and brighter futures for their families.”

Dorothea Arndt, Hand in Hand International CEO, said: “Something special is happening in rural Tanzania: a revolution that will help some of the world’s poorest women climb their way out of poverty as agri-entrepreneurs, even while they fight back against climate change. Our sincere thanks to Boeing for making it possible.”

1,620 community members trained

1,134 small businesses launched

Average 25 percent increases in net enterprise income

Why Tanzania?

The World Bank 2019 Tanzania Mainland Poverty Assessment reports that 26.4 percent of people in Tanzania live in poverty, whereas eight percent live in extreme poverty. The situation today is worse, as communities globally were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

With so many people living in poverty, 79 percent of poor Tanzanians depend on agriculture. The majority of households rely on subsistence farming – which is rain-fed – for survival, growing a limited number of crops. Climate change aggravates the situation, threatening livelihoods and food security. It is estimated that approximately 60 percent of Tanzania is semi-arid or arid. Often, long dry spells occur during the growing season to the extent that crop and pasture production becomes poor.

Many practices viewed as mitigating climate change can actually harm local ecosystems, creating further problems. For example, sustainable intensification of agriculture – where farmers seek to maximise production in a condensed area – can involve an intense use of chemicals and synthetic fertilisers. This produces unequal yields and risks damaging community water sources. Monoculture approaches – that focus on the cultivation of a single crop at a time in a plot and emphasise the heavy use of fertilisers through short-term subsidies – similarly deplete land through the reuse of soil.

What’s next?

Based in the communities they serve, Hand in Hand trainers continue to recruit and train project members in subjects ranging from business to regenerative agriculture. Access to credit from external, pro-poor lenders and links to larger markets so members can sustainably sell their produce soon follow.

After project members complete their 12-month training – a timeframe which, for the first cohort of members, began in March 2021 – members will move from fortnightly sessions to monthly check-ins with trainers. These visits keep enterprises on track for sustainable growth and ensure external credit is being repaid. Members will also be encouraged to form larger producers’ groups to benefit from economies of scale and better market access.

 

 

The Hand in Hand online auction is here!

That’s right, folks.

Starting today, you, your friends, your family, your friends’ families and your families’ friends – and your enemies – can bid on a huge range of super-cool items, from wine and original art to designer bags and wine to holidays, e-bikes and wine.

“Interesting,” you say. “But can I enter a raffle to win a stunning Orbit No. 1 diamond necklace from Swiss jewellers Montluc?”

Boom.

And that’s not all. Every time you bid or buy a raffle ticket, you’ll be helping women in some of the most challenging places on Earth beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs, which is literally impossible to argue with.

So go ahead. Finish Start your Christmas shopping or treat yourself to a presumably well-earned gift. Then forward our auction site to every single person in your address book, twice.

Happy bidding!

Let’s do this

Why women and girls are vulnerable to coronavirus

Although the risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19 is greater among men and the elderly, women in the developing world face unique challenges that shouldn’t be ignored. In this article, Hand in Hand Programme Development Manager Isabel Creixell explains how women are being affected – and what Hand in Hand is doing to help them.

 

 

Livelihoods

Women are traditional caregivers: when a family member gets sick, it’s their job to step in. First and foremost, this puts them at greater risk of infection. But even in cases when they don’t fall ill, the burden of household work can increase exponentially, particularly at a time when children are home from school. Parents all over the world have been struggling with a version of this, and in many cases feeling completely overwhelmed. Now imagine if you also had to walk miles every day to fetch water, plus do the chores and shopping yourself, all while tending to the smallholding that’s keeping your family from starving and, in many cases, trying to run a small business on the side. Something’s got to give, and when a family member or members fall ill that thing is almost always the business – and in many cases the farm.

 

 

Hunger

Women working as unpaid nurses don’t have time to be unpaid farmers. In households where men don’t share the burden (most of them, in rural settings) and virtually 100 percent of female-headed households, health crises can turn to hunger crises, quick.

Across our operating countries – right now – there are women who don’t have the time to grow food because of coronavirus and don’t have the savings to buy it. Those who do have savings will be running out soon. At the same time, women are more likely than men to work in the informal economy, meaning they lack social protections like insurance or sick paid leave. Their capacity to absorb shocks, in other words, can be effectively non-existent.

Finally, and maybe most starkly, when economic pressures and food shortages visit rural households, tradition often dictates that women and girls eat least and last.

 

 

Gender-based violence

Increases in gender-based violence during lockdown have rightly caught our attention here in the developed world. The developing world, where rates of violence against women are significantly higher, deserves our attention too.

Let’s not forget that things could get worse, not better, as the lockdown lifts and the true extent of our economic crisis begins to dawn. If isolation is one cause of gender-based violence, stress and financial difficulties are two more. At a time when every spare penny will have gone to buying food, escaping violent relationships will be more difficult than ever.

 

 

Health

Health services can be universally lacking in the countries where we work. But even when they’re available women face unique challenges in accessing them. In some communities, restrictive norms keep women from travelling alone. In others’, doctors won’t see them unless their husband – who could well be ill with Covid-19 – is present at the appointment.

How Hand in Hand is helping

Long-term plans to help women weather the coming economic storm are being developed by our programmes teams now.

In the more immediate term, we’ve already taken measures to protect our women members. These include:

  • Reaching women that official health guidance hasn’t, typically via their Self-Help Group leaders, to spread information about social distancing, handwashing and other virus prevention measures.
  • Providing opportunities to talk about domestic abuse. Although they’re stuck in their homes, some women find that simply having a space to talk about their situation can benefit their mental health. When the lockdown is over, we can more actively direct them to support services.
  • Providing information about keeping their businesses running, from how to produce items such as soap and masks to boosting food security by pointing rural members to alternative sources of seedlings and crops.
  • Working with men, who make up roughly 20 percent of our members, to share information about the benefits of sharing household tasks.
  • Reaching men with targeted messages about coping mechanisms, and providing someone to talk to, in order to reduce the incidence of domestic abuse.