Part 3: Five Women on the Front Lines of the Pandemic
This post is the third part in a series of five articles on how women are responding to the pandemic around the world. Read "Part 1: Going House-to-House in Kenya" and "Part 2: Seeing the Downside of Depending on Imports in Zimbabwe."
Turning a Difficult Situation Into an Opportunity in Guatemala
Days for Girls Guatemala Country Director Nilvia Gonzalez believes that even the most difficult situations can lead to opportunities.
Once the pandemic hit, she and her team assessed the supplies they had on hand to continue making menstrual kits, while adding face masks to the mix. It was important that her workers keep working since their wages go toward supporting their families. An American doctor who has long admired their work donated funds so Nilvia’s office could make masks and then sell them for one dollar apiece.
Community outreach has been key, especially in the indigenous, poverty-stricken areas of the country that the government cannot reach.
“Some are taking the virus seriously and following advice on how to manage the situation, while others are not,” Nilvia reports, “which is especially worrisome at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising.”
Working with the government, Nilvia got permission to visit rural areas, taking hand sanitizers, masks, and educational materials. At the same time, she is working to ensure that girls and women have menstrual kits.
On Menstrual Hygiene Day, May 28, 2020, she visited three communities and gave out 400 kits. “It is especially hard for girls menstruating during the pandemic,” she explains. “There are taboos based on machismo and discrimination against women, and they are afraid of expressing their needs. We are trying to get women to change how they view themselves.”
Special thanks to Days for Girls volunteer, Elizabeth Titus for contributing this article.
Elizabeth Titus has been an English teacher, a journalist, an advertising executive, and a communications director (15 years at American Express). For the past decade, she has focused on pro bono consulting to nonprofits, via PennPAC, for graduates of the University of Pennsylvania; Taproot; and Catchafire. She is especially interested in gender equality and the education of girls and women. A freelance writer, her articles have appeared in Ms., Narrative, and The Humanist, among others. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.