COVID-19, like a thief in the night has robbed society of all semblance of normalcy and left in its trail, a severely weakened global economy, with devastating repercussions for all persons, irrespective of gender, age, race, or social status. One of the groups most acutely affected by the ongoing pandemic is Single Mothers, particularly those who were already affected by poverty and other forms of vulnerability prior to the pandemic. They are directly impacted by the sudden loss of income and employment opportunities brought on by the cessation or reduction of economic activity across various sectors, particularly in the tourist industry. This new reality has left many Single Mothers displaced and disoriented. As the primary caregivers and breadwinners, they struggle to meet their current basic needs, and are perplexed about the future socio-economic, health and psychological ramifications for themselves and their children.
It is in response to this harsh reality that the UN System is partnering with the Government of Saint Lucia through the Ministry of Equity and Social Justice, to provide direct support to women who are currently on welfare. This is being done through a pilot project coordinated by UN Women as one of the participating UN Agencies in a joint programme with the Ministry on Adaptive Social Protection. The pilot project supports unemployed, low-skilled single mothers with infants to empower them through opportunities to learn technical skills, pursue basic literacy courses and enroll their infants in day care centres. With this holistic approach to human development, they receive financial support for their basic needs as well as personal development through career counselling, women’s empowerment sessions and psychosocial support.
The psychosocial support is particularly beneficial for those who are survivors of Gender-Based Violence. Such a move is seen as critical for equipping these women with strategic skills for not simply surviving but combatting the social and economic challenges wrought by the COVID-19 crisis and building their resilience to any future shocks. In this way, the intervention works towards reducing the likelihood that these families would be counted among the casualties of the pandemic.
The pilot initiative commenced in November 2020 with a three-week long Productivity Enhancement Training, facilitated by Mrs. Khrystal Riviere. The sessions brought together women from across the island to equip them to participate in the economy as small entrepreneurs or to insert themselves into the world of work. Topics such as self-management, communication, conflict resolution, the labour code, parenting and decision-making were addressed. Participants expressed extreme delight and gratitude for the opportunity to be empowered with valuable knowledge and skills, and many of them described the project as a lifesaver. During the early sessions on goal setting, one woman proudly stated (and noted in her journal) that the achievement of this her first ever certificate would be the first goal that she would be working towards!
The UN looks forward to collaborating on this yearlong initiative with several other partner agencies including the Department of Gender Relations, the Crisis Center, National Research and Development Foundation, the National Enrichment and Learning Unit, and the Bureau of Public Health. For more information on this initiative, please contact info.brb [at] unwomen.org .