The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated lives and livelihoods around the world, and women have especially borne the brunt in more than one way. Statistics from global surveys and studies on the impact of Covid-19 proved that traditional gender bias has worsened the employment opportunities and economic condition of women in general.
Homemakers lost husbands and consequently lost their source of economic sustenance. Women who are their families’ sole earners had reduced income and job opportunities. Women artisans lost traditional platforms to promote and sell their handicrafts.
This led a 17-year-old student, Anika Midha to build ‘Willow Fund’, a platform to grant women the autonomy to create and sustain their livelihood.
The Willow Fund is a non-profit organisation established during the pandemic as a platform where stories of these women are shared, and it endeavours to uplift them by providing economic support. The organisation raises funds for select charities and provides an online shop for impacted women artisans to showcase and sell their handicrafts. The long-term goal is to help over 100,000 women – those affected by the pandemic or in search of an ally, have access to better livelihoods within the next five years, and to empower them to create a better future for themselves and their dependents.
The organisation is run by volunteers and supported by sponsors to keep the operating cost at zero. 100 percent of the funds raised by the organisation and proceeds from sales go to the NGOs Willow Fund has partnered with, to give women beneficiaries access to skill development initiatives and provide women artisans access to the market.
Anika, the founder of Willow Fund, says, “Being a third culture kid, my life began in India, continued in China and Singapore. Now, I live and study in the US. When COVID-19 hit last year, I saw every country that I called “home” go through massive devastation.
“Overnight, the state of so many countries, families and individuals were left in jeopardy. The level of despair seemed unreal. I realized that many livelihoods would never remain the same and even if we as the world were to recover, it was going to take every bit of resilience we possess”
“I used my sense of resilience to dream of a better future for women artisans across the world, in order to grant them the autonomy to create and sustain their livelihood and that’s how Willow Fund began”, she adds.
Willow Fund also provides financial support to young women students affected by the pandemic, as it did in the case of two engineering students. Both the girls were on the verge of quitting their studies, having lost the primary earning members in their families to Covid-19, when funds raised by the Willow Fund provided them the financial security to continue with their education.
Contributions to the Willow Fund can be made through its website https://willow-fund.in. Anika’s dream to better the lives of women artisans can also be supported through the e-shop on the website where a variety of handicrafts by women artisans are available for sale.
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