Blog / 20 May 2020

'Comfortably staying home with the family': three women in Latin American villages about the Covid-19 crisis

"The Covid-19 crisis is affecting everyone, but in different ways. In some countries, people are feeling the consequences less than in others, in cities the problems are completely different to in the countryside, and men are suffering from the restrictions totally differently to women. Some of the organisations that we work with in Latin America talked to rural women about the effects of the crisis on their everyday lives and what they are doing to keep their heads above water. Below is a small selection from these conversations (freely translated from Spanish) to give some idea of the situation women in remote areas are finding themselves in, of the enormous solidarity they are experiencing and of the solutions, which largely lie in stimulating local food production." - Danielle Hirsch

Lucrecia Gil Villanueva, Argentina

"All small villages in the region are cut off. There are no ways to get from one to the other. Now things are going reasonably well, but it is getting more and more complicated with everything at a standstill. One person per family leaves the house to go shopping. Charcoal production, which most people in our village depend on for their livelihoods, is continuing as usual, but we are afraid that more and more buyers will stay away."

"For people who already had a general benefit, it was easy to apply for help from the IFE (Ingreso Familiar de Emergencia; emergency benefit).But a lot of people work in the informal sector and it is much more difficult for them to apply for financial support, if only because they have no access to internet. Luckily they often get help from people who do have Wi-Fi."

"It is now even more important to breathe new life into local food production and local markets and to create more 'green strips' to grow food in small villages in the hinterland. That was already badly needed before the crisis to safeguard local food production, but the crisis has made it even clearer. Something else that the crisis has made very clear is the serious problem of domestic violence that we face in the countryside."

Yoseling Guardado, El Salvador

"We have to stay at home all day. On the radio we hear everyone, the government, including the president, telling us 'stay at home'. Sounds easy, doesn't it? It's easy to paint a romantic picture of a happy family that stays at home, but they have no idea of how it is if you no longer know how to survive. How you can put a meal on the table for your family, as you are always expected to do as a good 'Salvadoreña', while you have no money go shopping. Because you earned that money selling pies on the street, and that is no longer allowed. If you do it, you are picked up by the police. It's very unfair."

"We have had to find ways to survive, despite everything. Like doing our shopping in groups: instead of 20 people going to the market separately, two now go and buy everything for 20 families. We have also set up a loan system, so that people who have no money can borrow from those who are a little better off."

"This pandemic is very serious, but even worse is the fact that a small country like ours has allocated two billion dollars to fight it without making a clear plan as to where that money should be spent. What is very clear, is the authoritarian response of the government, the repression, and the violations of the rights of a large part of the population. The organisations that should be protecting us, like the army and the police, have turned into instruments for using violence against us. Against women, too! Women who are doing their necessary shopping or are fetching water from the stream for their families. All we can do is support each other as women from a distance, let each other know that we are not alone and that we will find a solution together. And keep repeating that together we are invincible."

Yenny Rodriques, Bolivia

"Indigenous peoples and farming communities in protected areas in Bolivia have been under threat for many years from mining companies that pay little attention to the environmental laws in our country. Activists like me have been working for decades to protect indigenous territories from these companies and now, during the current crisis, that is more urgent than ever. Many communities are even more isolated than ever, and have been totally forgotten by national and regional governments."

"The employees of the oil companies active in the indigenous areas and in national parks come from the whole country and continue to work through the crisis with no form of protection at all. The companies completely ignore the protocols in place to prevent the virus from spreading, and that is a serious concern for everyone, especially indigenous communities. Many complaints have been lodged, but nothing has been done with them."

"Another serious cause for concern is that, while everyone is in quarantine, laws are being pushed through and agreements made that benefit the agro-industry and the mining and oil companies. Even now the oil price has fallen so sharply, the government is not thinking about other ways to generate income and promote development, and they keep using our indigenous territories."


These stories are being collected by two of our partner organisations in Latin America: by FCAM from Nicaragua as part of their initiative "Defensoras Territoriales: Voces de Resiliencia antes la crisis" and by Fundación Plurales from  Argentina which, together with FMS, has set up the initiative "Como se está viviendo la pandemia en comunidades rurales" and produced a written series 'Mujeres rurales en época de pandemia'.

Within the GAGGA programme, Both ENDS  works closely together with FCAM (lead organisation) and Fundación  Plurales. Organisations such as these work very closely with local communities and groups and play an important role. They ensure that support and funding actually find their way to these communities and groups – which are often forgotten by governments, policy-makers and financiers. And they make the daily reality of the people they work with visible, so that they will not be as easily forgotten in the future.

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