Looking back and foward

Article: 02.01.21, Worldwide, Sabine Brusse

A new year, or new anything, gets even more valueable when you start by reflecting on what has gone by. For anyone, 2020 will be an unforgettable year. The pandemic has influenced everything we know.

Our work, concerning global health, suffered from practical barriers, making it impossible to carry on. And more importantly: women and girls worldwide are impacted most by COVID-19, making our work more urgent than ever.

Time to look back and reflect.

Covid-19 and the launch of WASH First

We can proudly report that we were able to adapt our programmes to join the fight against the virus and to support local governments with their preventative measures. Next to that, the WASH SDG consortium, lead by Simavi, has launched the WASH First programme with support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the programme is to improve hygiene and access to water and sanitation, since this is part of the first barrier against the virus.

Children washing their hands at a hand-washing station in Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya.

A special anniversary

In 2020, Simavi commemorated 95 years of existence. Starting as a classic development aid organisation for then-Dutch colony Indonesia in 1925, we have evolved into an organisation that is focused on women and girls in Asia and Africa, concerned with their access to water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as their sexual and reproductive rights. We believe that healthy women are essential for strong societies.

HER Film Festival: the big premiere of this year

Almost everybody knows by now that it’s not easy to celebrate your birthday during the pandemic restrictions. We are very proud with the solution we have come up with: a digital, COVID-19 proof, relevant and valuable gift to the Dutch audience – HER Film Festival. The beautiful partnership with Cinetree was one of the unexpected highlights of 2020, including ten thousands of people with sharing the stories of women worldwide with ten thousands of people, opening their hearts to the beauty of equality, health, rights and our work.

Hoogtepunten van HER Film Festival

Learning from programmes

2020 marked the ending of some of our programmes, giving us the opportunity to evaluate, learn and share the results. The More Than Brides Alliance for instance, showcased the impressive stories of the girls we work with through the campaign Are You Listening?

Watershed has produced many products showcasing the lessons learned and knowledge obtained throughout the programme. Such as this presentation that tells you all about gender and social inclusion: what it is, how to promote it and how to incorporate it into your work as well.

The Ritu programme published a report showcasing results, including a selection of data from the randomised controlled trial (RCT) that shows the positive impact of the programme on girls’ menstrual health. RITU performed the first RCT in Asia, making this valuable evidence for future programmes.

Reflecting on the Right to Water and Sanitation

10 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights. An important development in itself and for our work, since these rights are inseparably linked to the right to health. This is why we worked together with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to safe drinking Water and Sanitation during the 10-year celebration year.

Innovative work: using radio as an inclusion tool

An interactive radio-campaign (Wottazela) was launched and executed by Simavi and partners in Uganda, in order to enhance social inclusion and strengthen an evidence-based approach within the Watershed programme. Through the radio-campaign, listeners were able to reply to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) & Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) poll questions via SMS.

The answers were used as the voice of the people, as an evidence-based lobby and advocacy approach in order to put pressure on the local Ugandan government and others responsible for water and sanitation. Due to the success, it has been expanded to Kenya and the fifth campaign has just ended.

Showing our impact in a new format

We decided to take a different course in 2020 for the yearly must-do: the annual report. We did not just want to showcase the work we do reflected in numbers but focus more on the actual impact of our work on the lives of women and girls. In the end: that is why we do our jobs! Our very first Impact Report was the result, and we are very proud of the beautiful stories and artwork representing our work.

Looking forward

In all honesty: highlights aside, of course this has been a hard year for everyone, and we are not an exception. Simavi as an organisation had to deal with some setbacks, financially and practically. Change never comes without a problem. We believe in progress. We will do whatever we can to continue our work for women, girls and strong societies. With our optimism, based on 95 years of experience, we look forward to new challenges and opportunities in 2021.

Wishing you a healthy and happy new year on behalf of the entire team of Simavi!

Ps. Get to know us even better Also in 2020: we developed videos to show you what we’re all about. Everything we are, everything we do and everything we stand for can be found in the “We are Simavi” videos.

Getting the basics right for women and girls

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