By Victoria Ifould, International Giving Officer, ShelterBox
For over 20 years, Rotary and ShelterBox have worked together to support families with a place to call home after disaster. ShelterBox teams work with disaster-hit families around the world, offering emergency shelter and other essential aid to support them in rebuilding their lives. This International Women’s Day we are sharing stories of the hardships, resilience and courage of the women ShelterBox and Rotary have worked with.
Due to pre-existing gender inequalities, women and girls are disproportionately affected by disasters. Following disaster and conflict, women experience higher death rates, increased gender-based violence, loss of livelihoods, and difficulties accessing education. The strength and resilience of women therefore plays a pivotal role in their recovery process. Women are often amongst the first responders to a crisis and are central to rebuilding their families and communities.
Susan lives on the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean. Before Cyclone Harold hit last year, Susan had a beautiful family home where her family and community took joy in coming together. She is a pillar of her community and an active member of the Community Disaster and Climate Change Committee (CDCCC.) In the first two days following the cyclone, Susan was too traumatised to work. But on the third day she began to record the cyclone’s damage and ask for government assistance. Susan played a key role in distributing vital aid materials to members of her community. Although she was mourning the loss of her family home, with the support of ShelterBox aid items, Susan is beginning to rebuild, and her community is starting to recover.
Shelter is the foundation of recovery – when you have shelter, you can start thinking about the future. ShelterBox provides women with the essential tools and training to rebuild their homes. This enables women to have a safe and private space to care for their families, continue with their education, and resume their livelihoods.
In 2014, Esther’s family was violently attacked when Boko Haram fighters stormed into their village in Nigeria. After witnessing the tragic death of her parents and brothers, Esther fled alongside many other girls in her situation. Esther is now 23 years old and lives in Minawao camp in Cameroon.
In Cameroon, ShelterBox has supported 15,000 families like Esther’s with the essential aid they need to start their journey toward recovery. The support Esther received helped her to participate in a sewing training organised on camp for young women. Today, Esther is one of the most popular dressmakers in the camp and she has ambitions to expand her business in the future.
‘I want to become a famous dressmaker not only here in Minawao, I want to see people wearing my clothes out of the camp and even in my country’ (Nigeria.)
Together in partnership, ShelterBox and Rotary have enabled thousands of women like Esther and Susan to take back control of their lives and rebuild their homes. Their stories demonstrate how the strength and resilience of women plays a vital role in the recovery process for their families and communities following disaster.
Meet some more incredible women that Shelter Box has worked with: