AJWS in Action: Updates from Our Partners, April 1

AJWS is supporting hundreds of activists and social change organizations on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 in the developing world, and we will continue to stand by all of our grantees in 19 countries during this global crisis. We will update you on their life-saving work right here.

For two years, AJWS has been supporting vulnerable communities in Indonesia affected by a string of natural disasters in 2018—earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding. We’ve now pivoted this funding to respond to COVID-19. Our grantee Yayasan Sosial Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan (or Indonesia For Humanity, IFH) has repurposed AJWS support and they’re now using funding to produce masks and hand sanitizers, and distribute them to poor communities in Jakarta that lack access to personal protective equipment, soap or clean water.

With a long history of human rights abuses, a total lack of government transparency and very few public health services—problems only exacerbated by natural disasters and epidemics—Haiti is at grave risk during this pandemic. Our grantees are working tirelessly to ensure that people receive critical, factual information about COVID-19 that will allow them to protect themselves and their families. Right now, three AJWS grantees are disseminating audio and video messages across their communities on social media, informing Haitians how to stay safe in the face of the pandemic. They are supported in this mission by the Kreyol version of AJWS’s COVID-19 toolkit.

Prior to this crisis, AJWS had been supporting Sosyete Animasyon Kominikasyon Sosyal (SAKS) to fight for civil and political rights for all Haitians. This week they have produced five educational radio messages about COVID-19 protection, and they are now being broadcast on a network of community radio stations.

AyiboPost, a grantee creating truthful, socially conscious journalism in the Haiti, has produced and distributed two short educational videos about preventing COVID-19 infection. And Action pour la Reforestation et la Défense de l’Environnement (AREDE), a grantee usually promoting social, economic and natural resource rights in Haitian communities, produced an educational radio message that is now being broadcast across Haiti’s northeast region.

In India, where the largest coronavirus lockdown on earth is currently being enforced on the population of 1.34 billion people, AJWS grantees are fighting to defend the rights of the country’s most vulnerable people in the midst of this rapidly unfolding crisis.

Our grantee SEWA Bharat, which organizes workers like street vendors and seamstresses to defend their rights and secure employment, submitted an appeal this week to high ranking government officials pushing for the government to help informal sector workers during the COVID-19 crisis. This is crucial,because those engaged in the informal economy are at grave risk for losing their livelihoods and falling even deeper into poverty with no support.

One of the most marginalized and poorest of these informal sector communities is India’s waste-pickers. Their work requires them to be outside in often-dangerous conditions with little protection against illness. This week, our grantee Kashtakarai Panchayat joined with other organizations to urge the government to take steps to protect their safety. They signed an appeal of the Alliance of Indian Wastepickers directed at Prime Minister Modhi to act swiftly to provide resources like protective gear and wash stations to waste-pickers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Guatemala currently has less than 100 officially diagnosed cases of COVID-19, government corruption and lack of transparency is leading to a severe lack of critical information—all while the economic damage piles up. Prices of basic foods, including corn and cleaning supplies, have already increased greatly, a huge challenge for the country’s low-income communities.

In an effort to address these challenges, our grantees are fighting for the right to information and defending journalists who seek to spread accurate information about the virus. Longtime partner UDEFEGUA, a venerable human rights defender organization, this week released a statement denouncing government corruption and the treatment of journalists who dare question the government’s COVID-19 response. Prensa Comunitaria is actively working to build a network of journalists in rural areas around Guatemala to ensure that these members of local media are receiving factual updates—allowing them to inform and educate their communities.

Global Concerns and Disruption of Grantees
Many of the updates we are receiving from grantees around the world demonstrate that they are going through much of what we have all experienced in recent weeks: they are nervous about the future, and acting as quickly as possible to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe. Many grantees have had to cancel or postpone their regular activities—workshops, demonstrations and gatherings.

We will continue to update you as our grantees around the world respond to the pandemic to protect themselves and their communities.

This information is accurate as of April 1, 2020.