Long Read

2019 at Simavi: almost 95 years old, but still learning 

In 2018, wwanted to find out: how can we continue to add value, almost 95 years after being founded, and in a fast-changing world? In 2019, we started implementing this renewed and refreshed visionCore of this vision: our work to empower women and girls socially and economically to enable them to pursue a healthy life. 

And now we are already on the verge of 2020, a year in which we want to fully focus on our core strengths. But before we jump into the new year, let’s have a quick look at some of our highlights of 2019. 

Working with Bangladesh-based organisations for the health and rights of young women.

This year, we launched a new programmeOur Lives, Our Health, Our Futures. With funding from the European Union, Simavi and our partner BNPS will be working in the Chittagong Hill Tracts to empower adolescent girls and young women to live with dignity and without violence. We are training locally-led organizations, so that they are able to support the young women’s needs and to mobilise parents, health services, schools and community leaders to create a change in their attitudes towards women and girls in the most remote rural communities.  

Proving our methods 

Also in Bangladesh, the end-of programme evaluation of the Ritu programme was concluded. Through a partnership with TNORed Orange, BNPS, DORP and the University of Maastricht, Ritu has reached more than 26,000 girls, 23,000 boys, 10,000 parents and 1,000 teachers with its messages about menstrual health. Young girls in the project’s target region are better informed and more equipped to manage their menstrual health. But besides the targets reached, the programme has been one of few menstrual health programmes that has been evaluated through a randomized controlled trial. We found positive effects of the programme and will communicate our findings in the coming year. As our donor, the Royal Embassy of The Netherlands in Dhaka granted us a short extension and we are currently working on sustaining our activities through lobby and advocacy efforts on local and national level.  

World Water Week 2019: Simavi and inclusion 

Photo source: Plan International Nepal

In Stockholm during World Water Week, Simavi was represented in several sessions that highlighted how our WASH programmes endeavor to ‘leave no one behind’. For instance, the gender and social inclusion work carried out in the WASH SDG programme was showcased in the session ‘Walking the Talk: Integrating gender and social inclusion from the start’. The accompanying factsheet was well received. As was our ‘Shared agenda: exploring the links between water, sanitation, hygiene and sexual and reproductive health and rights in sustainable development on Menstrual Health’, that we worked on together with several partner organisations. 

Corporate partnerships

In terms of maternal health, we engage in a partnership with Applied Medical, that sponsored our Check2Gether project for pregnant women in remote areas in Indonesia. But there are more corporate partnerships: with Dopper and Made Blue, that have both enabled us to continue making a difference in the lives of many women and girls. And with The Good Rollthrough their financial support, and through our combined World Toilet Day campaign ‘everyone has the right to a toilet’.  

Women and girls tell their stories

The More than Brides Alliance empowers young people to decide if and when to get married and to make informed choices about their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). For the ’16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence’, the Alliance developed a beautiful Spoken Word campaign for social media, in which the girls that participate in the programme spoke from their own voice about their wants, needs and rights. The Golden Line programme, that is working towards economic empowerment of women in gold mining communities in Ghana and Tanzania, developed a photo exhibition and a documentary, that really show the hardship these women face in mining communities. In 2020, we will use several international awareness days – such as International Women’s Day, Menstrual Hygiene Day and World Toilet Day – to showcase the stories of the women and girls we work with. 

Simavi’s supporters and ambassadors

Ambassador Dieuwertje Blok

We are very proud and grateful that we have many people supporting us and being our official or unofficial ambassadors: financially – from private individuals to companies, and from foundations to institutional donors. And in many other ways: from people volunteering at our office to people sharing our messages on social media, and from children participating in Wandelen voor Water to people hiking during the Hike for Health. In 2020, we hope this group of loyal supporters will grow even more. 

We also have several official ambassadors. Besides the fact that Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix is our patroness, Simavi is fortunate enough to have several well known-ambassadors. They were actively engaged with our work this year once more: tv presenter Dieuwertje Blok participated in our Wandelen voor Water (Walking for Water) event in which children raise money and awareness about the importance of safe water. She also spoke with eloquence about our work with women and girls, during a Koffietijd (Dutch) tv show in November. Actor Barry Atsma used his social media channels to spread the message about our World Toilet Day campaign, and actress Britte Lagcher experimented with us in producing a podcast (Dutch) about taboo topics (De Schaamte Voorbij – Beyond the Shame). 

Hike for Health

In November, 24 people travelled with us to Nepal, to start the adventure of a lifetime: a 5-day hike in the Annapurna mountain range. They did so in order to raise funds for our work, and during their trip they were able to visit the project they have been sponsoring. The trip was hard, impressive, beautiful, emotional and an experience (Dutch) the participants will never forget. In February and March 2020 new groups will travel to Nepal to start their own adventure. 

95 years and counting

Of course, there was much more, and there is certainly more to come. In 2020, Simavi celebrates its 95th birthday. With such a long history, we can look back on many achievements and especially improvements in the health of many people all over the world. At the same time, it keeps us on our toes: we want to keep improving upon ourselves, to continue making a change in the lives of women and girls. And ultimately: working towards a healthy life for all. 

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