Not since World War II, when CARE got its start, has the world faced a global crisis of this proportion. Humanitarian crises—increasingly driven by climate change—were already on the rise, diverting resources from other long-term initiatives. Now, decades of hard-fought rights are at stake and the impact of COVID-19 may push another 150 million people into extreme poverty. Although people of all genders have been affected, women, girls and non-binary people have suffered disproportionately.

Our collective front line—first responders, providers, caretakers, activists and leaders—is predominantly women. When women have had the opportunity to lead, they have achieved great things. But more often than not, their voices have been absent from decision-making. We have left too many obstacles in her way.

She keeps others safe, BUT ISN'T SAFE HERSELF

Women have lobbied against increasing incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) and have moved mountains to protect survivors. But the pandemic has confined many women with their abusers. This lack of legal and social protection comprises a "shadow pandemic".

She IS THE FRONT LINE OF HEALTH CARE, BUT HER OWN IS AT RISK

Women, who comprise 70 per cent of global health care workers, are leading the response to the pandemic too often with insufficient protection. Meanwhile, COVID-19 has undermined access to nutrition, health services and family planning for all genders, in particular women and girls.

SHE PROVIDES UNPAID CARE,BUT HER JOB WAS THE FIRST TO GO

Women provide the bulk of unpaid care in their communities. This unrecognized and undervalued work has only increased during the pandemic, amounting to a double workday for those women who have kept their jobs. The majority, however, work in low-paid positions with limited protections that have been hard hit by the deepening global economic crisis.

SHE LEADS IN HER COMMUNITY, BUT RESOURCES FOR HER are dwindling

Women-led and women's rights organizations are best-placed to lead change in their community, but continue to receive less than one per cent of official development assistance funding. These shortages are rooted in colonial legacies, systemic racism and discrimination.

She is on the front lines of this global crisis, and yet, she is getting left behind.

For 75 years, CARE has worked around the globe to change lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice. Guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we work on the front lines of humanitarian crises and tackle the underlying causes of poverty to create transformative change. With a bedrock of national staff and a strong network of local partners, we have deep connections and impact in more than 100 countries.

But right now, our vision—one of a world of hope, inclusion and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and all people of all genders live in dignity and security—faces an unprecedented global threat.

Now is the time for action. With three strategic directions as our compass, we will relentlessly pursue our intended impact— before it is too late.

CARE Canada will bring all of our resources, talent and commitment to unlock her leadership for a gender-just future.

We know the world is better when she leads too. But in order for her to lead, her basic rights must be prioritized: she needs to be safe, she needs to be healthy, and she needs to have dignified work.

Summary .Simu (28) is employed by CARE Bangladesh as a trainer for the Empowering Women Workers in Bangladesh, funded by Cotton On Group. Simu is based at the factory of Big Boss Corporation Ltd - a ready-made garment factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh. She is not married. Big Boss is one of three factories taking part in the two-year pilot project Empowering Women Workers in Bangladesh, funded by Cotton On Group.
Simu’s story in her own words
I live with my parents and my 24-year-old brother. I got my first job while I was completing my higher secondary certificate in 2008. I worked as a training facilitator for a children’s project with CARE Bangladesh. I worked with children and parents in the community and this gave me the confidence to work in the ready-made garment industry. I was very impressed with CARE and decided I wanted to contribute to making change in other people’s lives. 
I earned my Masters in Social Work in 2018. I have worked in ready-made garment factories since 2015. I worked at DBL Group as a trainer for a VISA Worldwide-funded project teaching financial literacy to women. In 2017, I worked in another factory teaching a women’s empowerment project funded by UN Women.
I have been working for CARE for three months as a trainer for the Empowering Women Workers in Bangladesh project. I teach two training sessions a day, six days a week. I start work at 10am to prepare for the first session which is from 11:30am to 1pm. The second session is from 2:30pm to 4pm. After that I prepare for the following day and take the bus to my home which is about one and a half hours away. I spend my free time in the evening with my family. 
As I am a woman, and I have my education and training, I want other women to be on the same path and get the life-skills to be leaders. I know that to empower women, men are equally important. My female training participants can learn how to support male employees at work, as well as at home. For example, women used to think

SUPPORTING HER SAFETY

We help create safe spaces and programs that prevent and respond to gender-based violence. We work with all women and girls to safely assert their voices and realize their rights; with religious and community leaders, men and boys to champion change; and alongside women-led and women’s rights organizations that are changing the system.

PROMOTING HER HEALTH

We support women and girls to make their own decisions about their bodies and health. We partner with communities to address barriers to health care. We work with health systems to respond to all women’s needs and rights, particularly in delivering sexual and reproductive health services.

INVESTING IN HER LIVELIHOOD

To support her right to meaningful, safe and dignified work, we help women access the skills, knowledge and resources they need to succeed as entrepreneurs, farmers and leaders. We engage with communities to address unequal household burdens and work alongside local partners to advocate against discriminatory laws, policies and systems.

ENGAGING MEN AND BOYS

We will work to protect her rights in both our humanitarian and development work. And we will do this with full engagement of men and boys. When they speak and act for women's rights, they support greater equality between all genders.

TO DRIVE IMPACT, we must first reimagine how we achieve our mission:

  1. Local Leadership. We will move beyond contracts to partnerships that leverage local leadership and shift resources closer to impact.
  2. Global Connection. We will join forces with other CARE members to bring locally-tailored and locally-led solutions to scale.
  3. Digital Power. We will harness the power of technology to enhance our programs and connect our partners and donors to impact.

Second, we must inspire Canadian investment in a gender-just future:

  1. Bold and Brave. Our values will be front and centre, consistently demonstrating our commitment to inclusion and empowerment in all we do. We will celebrate local partners and the generosity of Canadians who support them.
  2. Innovate and Partner. We will convene public, private and philanthropic investment, building partnerships that leverage locally-driven and locally-led business models and markets.
  3. Resource for Impact. We will scale revenue sources for maximum impact and sustainability, and increase the proportion of our resources going to local and community partners.

Finally, we must transform to be future-ready:

  1. Diverse and Inclusive. We will build a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization that commits to anti-racism and reflects the Canadian lived experience.
  2. Adaptable and Sustainable. We will build an agile organization and culture that rewards experimentation, creativity and sustainability.
  3. Future-Ready. We will focus less on our place of work and more on the shared purpose of our work in order to be an employer of choice.
  4. Talent and Expertise. We will recruit, retain and invest in diverse talent to cultivate needed capacities and skills.
  5. Digitally Optimized. We will better leverage data and related tools to understand, communicate and connect on our impact.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have undoubtedly been, and continue to be, terrible for individuals, communities, and countries. Yet the crisis provides a unique opportunity to build forward rather than fall back. We are seizing this moment to help build a world that is more equal.

The world we want to live in is one where discrimination and privilege do not determine how much food you eat, how safe you feel or how you provide for yourself or your family.

The world we want to live in truly includes all genders, races, abilities, religions, classes—identities of all social and political stripes.

A gender-just future needs her leadership.

Because the world is better when she leads too.