Ramatou Jean Coffi, Community Outreach Agent for Concern in Niger. Photo: Ollivier GirardRamatou Jean Coffi, Community Outreach Agent for Concern in Niger. Photo: Ollivier GirardRamatou Jean Coffi, Community Outreach Agent for Concern in Niger. Photo: Ollivier Girard

Nine amazing women we’ve met from around the world

Nine amazing women we’ve met from around the world
Story17 December 2021

Through our work in 24 of the world’s poorest countries, we often have the pleasure of meeting incredible people from all walks of life. From the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa, here are nine amazing women that we’ve had the honour to meet.

1. Alaa Idrees, Lebanon

Alaa Idrees, Protection Training Officer in Lebanon.
Alaa Idrees, Protection Training Officer in Lebanon.

Alaa Idrees is a Protection Training Officer in Lebanon.

She works with women and children who are survivors of gender-based violence, providing guidance, resources, protection and psychosocial support at the most critical time. They work mostly with women and children at high risk by identifying them, ensuring a proper follow up, and referring them to the relevant organisations when required. Alaa told us, “My main purpose is to help the survivors improve their quality of life." 

It’s estimated that one in three women will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime, which is associated with long-term mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During displacement and times of crisis, the threat of gender-based violence significantly increases for women and girls. 

Meet more women building a fairer and healthier world here.

2. Ramatou Jean Coffi, Niger

Ramatou Jean Coffi Community Outreach Agent for Concern on a field visit with Concern staff. Photo: Ollivier Girard
Ramatou Jean Coffi Community Outreach Agent for Concern on a field visit with Concern staff. Photo: Ollivier Girard

Ramatou Jean Coffi is Concern’s Community Awareness Officer in the Tahoua region of Niger. Community Awareness Officers visit the communities we work in and let them know who we are and what we are doing in the area. However, Ramatou has had to face one of the most persistent obstacles to gender inequality in the workplace - balancing employment with caregiving and domestic responsibilities.

Ramatou explained that she would not be in the role if it were not for shared family support, which challenges the social assumption of her as sole care provider. It is particularly difficult when she has to spend days away from home in hard to reach parts of Niger.

Ramatou Jean Coffi, Community Outreach Agent for Concern with her husband Mahamadou Thiwouaké and her daughter Narna. Pictured at home in Tahoua City. Photo: Ollivier Girard
Ramatou Jean Coffi, Community Outreach Agent for Concern with her husband Mahamadou Thiwouaké and her daughter Narna. Pictured at home in Tahoua City. Photo: Ollivier Girard

I work full time during the day. When I finish, I go home, and there are household chores and duties in raising children. It is hectic. But we keep moving forward. My husband also participates in the tasks. He helps me with household chores.

Ramatou Jean Coffi

Read more about Women in Concern facing the challenges here.

3. Caustasie, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Caustasie Kisoke Mukala, 61, and her grandchildren Gloria, 4, and Emmanuel, 1 year 8 months old in Kiambi, Manono Territory.
Caustasie’s family lost everything when they fled conflict. Even now, all Caustasie has is the wrap she wears to keep her grandchildren warm at night while they sleep. Photo: Tshoper Kabambi / Concern Worldwide

61-year-old grandmother of two, Caustasie, lives in the DRC, where many families have been pushed from their homes due to conflict and natural disasters. When the fighting reached Caustasie’s village, she had no choice but to run.

There was a huge panic. It just happened suddenly. We never expected conflict to reach our village. No one had time to take anything. We just grabbed our kids and ran away from the village. No one had any idea which direction they were going. It was either stay and die or run away.

Caustasie

Leaving everything she owned behind, Caustasie took her grandchildren and fled for her life. This was the beginning of a long and perilous journey, but one that she knew she had to take if Gloria* (four years) and Emmanuel* (20 months), were to be safe.

They travelled on foot, covering more than 50 miles over several days. Passers-by helped them and, in some places, the family were taken in and given shelter. At other times, they had to risk sleeping out in the open, exposed to the dangers that surrounded them. The nights were cold, and all Caustasie had was the wrap she wore, which she used to keep the children warm while they slept.

Caustasie, 61, and her grandchildren Gloria, 4, and Emmanuel, 1 year 8 months old in Kiambi, Manono Territory.
Caustasie, 61, and her grandchildren Gloria, 4, and Emmanuel, 1 year 8 months old in Kiambi, Manono Territory.

Finally, they reached safety in Kiambi, but they had no money. In order to feed her family, Caustasie now works as a farm labourer, with Emmanuel strapped to her back. The work is sporadic – even on days when it is available, she earns around £0.72 per day – not nearly enough to feed her family. Yet Caustasie goes on.

I am motivated to keep going by my grandchildren. When I watch them grow up, it brings joy to me.

Caustasie

4. Doke, member of the Chalbi Salt self-help group Kenya

Members of Chalbi Salt Self Help Group in northern Kenya. Photo: Jennifer Nolan
Members of Chalbi Salt Self Help Group in northern Kenya. Photo: Jennifer Nolan

This group of 15 amazing women collect salt from a desert in northern Kenya in order to support their community and put girls through school.

The desert, around 100,000 square kilometres (slightly bigger than the island of Ireland), is aptly named ‘Chalbi’ - meaning ‘bare and salty’ in the language of the Gabbra people who live there. This salt provides essential nutrients for livestock, said to help animals grow healthier and yield better produce. But not everyone has access to it - especially those living in the hills that border Ethiopia. This is where the Chalbi Salt Self-Help Group comes in.

The women embark on the two-day trip to the desert, which is 20km away, to collect the salt. They then sell this to local farmers and herders, who either mix it with water or let their animals lick it in its pure form. This provides a great source of income for these hard-working women, not only to buy food for their families but to also pool together to invest in a better future.

Doke Konchora and Gumato Ibrae from Chalbi Salt Self Help Group, pictured with school girls they support to stay in education. Photo: Jennifer Nolan
Doke Konchora and Gumato Ibrae from Chalbi Salt Self Help Group, pictured with school girls they support to stay in education. Photo: Jennifer Nolan

With the money, they’ve set up their own village savings and loan group to help women who need an extra hand; investing it carefully and lending it with a little interest which goes straight back into the pot. They also use the profits to provide educational support to disadvantaged girls, supplying uniforms, exercise books and pens.

We’re supporting girls’ education so they don’t fall behind. If you educate a girl child and she pursues well in her studies she will get somewhere. She not only supports her family, but the entire community can benefit.

Doke - Member of Chalbi Salt Self-Help Group

Read more about the Chalbi self-help group here.

5. Annie, Liberia

Annie Porkah who benefited from a Concern Home Garden programme. Annie has limited mobility and the programme is helping ensure she has healthy food to eat all year round.
Annie Porkah who benefited from a Concern Home Garden programme. Annie has limited mobility and the programme is helping ensure she has healthy food to eat all year round.

Annie has limited physical mobility, and in her remote hometown in Liberia she has no access to basic social services. Since the Liberian civil war, she has relied on farming as the single source of income for her family, making her financially very vulnerable.

She joined other women in her village to take part in our home gardening training. The ten crops she planted supply her family with vegetables all year round with some extra to sell each harvest (all without having to travel from home!).

The money she has generated from her sales offers her financial security. She uses it to cover her family's daily needs, including her grandson’s tuition fees. She hopes to build a house in the next five years.

On top of that, Annie feels she's earned a great level of respect from friends and neighbours. Proving that just a little support can go very a long way.

6. Maha*, Lebanon

Maha was a primary school teacher in Syria before she fled to Lebanon in 2014. Photo: Darren Vaughan
Maha was a primary school teacher in Syria before she fled to Lebanon in 2014. Photo: Darren Vaughan

50-year-old Maha* was a primary school teacher in Syria before she fled to Lebanon in 2014. She now lives on her own in a concrete collective centre housing ten refugee families. She is attending a 12-week women’s group programme, which provides psychosocial support and helps promote gender equality, reduce gender-based violence, manage protection issues and gives the women the opportunity to share their experiences.

It can be overly stressful living here. But the sessions have taught us how to care for ourselves and manage stress. We’ve learned a lot of techniques to reduce our daily stress, like going for a walk and socialising. I love to sit with other women in the group and talk together.

Maha

7. Victoria Jean-Louis, Haiti

Victoria Jean-Louis, Concern’s Programmes Director in Haiti.
Victoria Jean-Louis, Concern’s Programmes Director in Haiti.

Victoria Jean-Louis is Concern’s Programmes Director in Haiti. She leads a team and together, they implement our programmes across the country.

It is difficult and complex work, and can be overwhelming. However, Victoria says: “I've learned to hold on to the things that are within our control and trust that the cumulative impact of all the work we do has the capacity to transform people’s lives.”

However, in Haiti disasters are often unpredictable.

On 14 August 2021, a devastating earthquake of 7.2 magnitude struck Haiti. It left over 2,200 dead, 12,000 injured and over 650,000 people in need of humanitarian aid. In the immediate aftermath, we ramped up our aid distribution operations to reach those left homeless, providing shelter kits, blankets and hygiene kits. Victoria and her team also had a wider role in the response, coordinating and working collaboratively with other organisations to gather data and analyse needs, and provided technical support.

8. Adrenise, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Adrenise in the village of Kaiha, Manono Territory. Photo: Hugh Kinsella Cunningham/Concern Worldwide
Adrenise in the village of Kaiha, Manono Territory. Photo: Hugh Kinsella Cunningham/Concern Worldwide

Adrenise took part in our Graduation programme in DRC. ‘Graduation’ refers to the movement of individuals or households out of extreme poverty and into food security and sustainable livelihoods. It is an innovative approach to addressing extreme poverty and rebuilding and transforming lives, livelihoods and communities.

Adrenise attended training sessions on entrepreneurship and income generation, which gave her a number of business ideas. Using a mixture of cash transfers and loans that she received through the programme, she invested in businesses such as goat rearing and trading oil, maize and cassava. She is using the extra income to build a new house, send her daughter to university and buy healthy and nutritious food for her family.

Before Concern’s project, I didn’t start these businesses because I just didn’t have enough money. The money has changed my life. It’s meant I can afford clothing, medicine, it’s helped with my children’s education and it’s helped us improve our nutrition.

Adrenise

You can read more about Graduation and the pathways out of extreme poverty here.

9. Mona, Lebanon

“I used to live in a house in Syria. I had never even been inside a tent in my life let alone lived in one," she said. Photo: Darren Vaughan
“I used to live in a house in Syria. I had never even been inside a tent in my life let alone lived in one," she said. Photo: Darren Vaughan

A staggering half a million Syrian children are living as refugees in Lebanon having endured years of untold violence, suffering and hardship. It is a life that no one so young should have to experience. Thankfully, one woman stepped in to help a young boy called Bashir.

Bashir was orphaned five years ago while living in Lebanon – the country where he and his mum had sought refuge. After the death of his father, life back in their home city in Syria had become unbearable and dangerous. It was then that his mum decided they should make the journey to Lebanon. But sadly, not long after reaching their destination, Bashir’s mum fell ill and died.

Bashir found himself on his own – without family and alone in a strange land.

Mona has been caring for 11-year-old Bashir after he was orphaned five years ago. Photo: Darren Vaughan
Mona has been caring for 11-year-old Bashir after he was orphaned five years ago. Photo: Darren Vaughan

That is when former teacher Mona intervened. She had been through a similar experience as a refugee – fleeing conflict in her home city in Syria, and was living in the same informal tented settlement as Bashir in the Akkar region of northern Lebanon. A mix of coincidence and instinct brought them together and she took him under his wing.

“We both share the same family name but come from different cities. I decided to look after him because something inside of me made me want to care for him like a mother.”

Now, Bashir’s uncle is attempting to register him with the UNHCR as a separated family member. If successful, Bashir’s wish is, nonetheless, to remain with Mona - so close is the bond between both.

Read more about Mona and Bashir’s story here.

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