Everyday heroines of International Women’s Day

March 8, 2017
Photo by Kieran McConville

Few UN days are more relevant to Concern’s work than International Women’s Day. Women and girls are at the core of our work because they are key drivers of lasting change. Today, we bring you the inspiring stories of three of those women who have shown us what’s possible when bold women are empowered.

Lucia White in the village of Khulubvi in Nsanje, Malawi.

Lucia White in the village of Khulubvi in Nsanje, Malawi. This single mother of four lost her home and possessions in a flood. Concern provided Lucia with emergency supplies in the immediate aftermath, as well as seeds, fertilizer, and goats to get herself and her family back on their feet. Photo: Kieran McConville

Lucia White just won’t quit

Courage means many things and it doesn’t always manifest in a dramatic way. Lucia White has been knocked regularly down by life’s events, not least of which being the loss of her husband and the massive destruction wrought by last year’s floods in southern Malawi. But each time she dusts herself off, gets back up and carries on.

“I dream to have our own home again.”

“This was our home. We lived here for 20 years,” she says. “I have four children, two boys and two girls, and all of them were born here.” Lucia is standing in front of a mound of earth where once stood the family home. Now nothing remains.

But every day she works tirelessly on the land, cultivating new crops to keep the family fed, and then does “piece work” on other farms to earn cash for the rent and to pay for school fees. Concern has helped with the recovery, providing seeds, fertilizer, goats, household goods, and supplemental food. “I dream to have our own home again,” she says, and is saving what she can to make that dream come true.

Janjay T. Dennis in Liberia

Janjay T. Dennis is a mother of six. Before completing a vocational training course in masony with Concern in Buchanan, Liberia, she had never had a job. When we met her, her husband was jobless. While in training Janjay received a 12-month stipend, and is now out on work placement. Photo: Kieran McConville

Janjay Dennis takes care of business

Janjay T. Dennis is mixing concrete in the yard of a half-built community center near the town of Buchanan, Liberia. “I never really had a job before,” she says. “I did some small business and a bit of farming and my husband worked as a driver. Then he lost his job.”

“The men have been very encouraging. I am a girl, but I can work as hard as any of them.”

“I am confident of getting a job as a mason. Then I can support the family. I’ll build a home for the children and look after my father and mother.”

On the subject of being the only woman on a site full of builders, she laughs. “ I don’t care. The men have been very encouraging. I am a girl, but I can work as hard as any of them.”

Maria Nader

Maria Nader (left), Community Site Coordinator for Concern Worldwide, with Syrian refugee women in Hazzoury collective center, run by Concern Worldwide in Halba, Lebanon. Photo: Kieran McConville

Maria Nader is a rock star

Visiting the refugee collective center with Maria Nader is like being with a rock star. The Syrian families — for whom this concrete structure in a Lebanese town is now home — light up with joy when they see her. They have all been through a rough time and Maria is the one who brought them here. The center, run by Concern, was designed to host particularly vulnerable families and is a safer alternative to the tents in which many lived before coming here.

“We didn’t feel any comfort or peace of mind until we met Ms. Maria.”

To them, Maria is a savior. To her, it’s obviously more than just a job. She spends time with the families, drinks tea with the women, plays with the children, and lends a sympathetic ear to those who have been traumatized.

One of those who Maria has helped is Rauda. “We experienced the cold, the misery, the humiliation — we went through everything, my sisters and me,” she says. “We didn’t feel any comfort or peace of mind until we met Ms. Maria.”

But no matter how bearable their lives here become, Maria says that most Syrians are of one mind when it comes to the future. “They hope to get back to their land, even if they don’t have houses any more. They will build a tent and live in it. To get back to Syria and live their lives at home — this is their dream.”

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