Asia Foundation Launches Rapid Response Fund to Address Gendered Impacts of Covid-19

San Francisco, April 8, 2020 — The gendered impact of Covid-19 continues to play out in countries and communities across the globe, with acute effects on women and girls. These include a dramatic rise in gender-based violence amidst quarantines and lockdowns, women’s loss of economic security, increased caregiving demands that fall largely on women, and the increased risks to women of illness as they comprise most of the frontline health and community workers.

Jane Sloane, senior director for Women’s Empowerment at The Asia Foundation, said today, “Given the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on women and girls in Asia, we established a Covid-19 Lotus Rapid Response Fund to address the immediate gendered impacts of Covid-19. With The Asia Foundation’s network of 18 permanent country offices across Asia and our longstanding relationships with local partners, we’ve been able to identify urgent needs and mobilize quickly in response to what we’re seeing on the ground and to get resources where they’re most needed.”

The Lotus Circle, a group of individual and corporate donors committed to The Asia Foundation’s work to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality across Asia raises flexible funds help pilot new initiatives and sustain and leverage funding for existing programs that benefit women and girls and advance gender equality.

Activities supported by the Covid-19 Lotus Rapid Response Fund:

  • Constructing new handwashing stations in Timor-Leste to support effective sanitation and hygiene practices outside crucial local organizations and services that support women, children, and people with disabilities. This includes areas where The Asia Foundation and its local partners are managing a long-term program to combat the high levels of violence against women in the country. These stations were under construction within 24 hours of funds being disbursed and are already meeting an urgent need.
  • Supporting remote learning for young women scholars studying STEM in Laos and Cambodia including computers, internet credit, food and health supplies, and online mentorship to ensure their continued learning and connectivity for their course work and soft skills development.
  • Supporting a domestic violence hotline in Indonesia, including providing virtual counseling, emergency supplies, and referrals for economic support for gender-based violence victims. Expanding these services is essential; the number of calls to the hotline has increased seven-fold since the pandemic began.
  • Launching the Entrepreneur Scale-Up Program in Malaysia, which includes coaching for selected women micro-entrepreneurs, visibility and branding strategies, and mentorships, with the aim of unlocking further opportunities for online capital and revenue growth, and business expansion.
  • Supporting food security for women with disabilities, caregivers, and poor elderly people in Indonesia by providing training on vegetable farming, helping to establish small plots, and providing farming materials. Dialogues with policymakers and activists about good practices will encourage adaptation and replication of food security models for other vulnerable groups.

Still in the works, upcoming activities will include raising community awareness on domestic violence in Myanmar and Cambodia and supporting key response services; distributing hygiene kits to at-risk populations in Pakistan; building the evidence base on the impacts of Covid-19 on women and girls in China; and supporting women entrepreneurs in Mongolia and Cambodia to adapt their business models and scale up their online operations.

The rapid response fund will also sustain the critical work of key women’s organizations and movements through the global pandemic and beyond so that we do not lose ground on longer-term policy initiatives that are required to advance women’s rights and gender equality.

Join the Lotus Circle’s virtual event on April 15 as we share our commitment to the fight for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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Media contact

Eelynn Sim, Director, Strategy and Programs
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