COVID-19: NGO reports

April 2020

We asked some of our partner NGOs working on domestic violence issues how they were coping with COVID-19 restrictions and how it affected their work.

Sezim Crisis Center, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Sezim acts to prevent domestic violence and support victims. It runs a New Beginnings Club for women of 55+

Meerim Kadyrkulova reports:

In our country, due to the threat of COVID-19, a state of emergency and curfew have been introduced. We have switched to temporary emergency working conditions.

– Our office is working remotely

– Consultations with psychologists and lawyers are taking place online

– Our advocacy for women in court is suspended as courts are suspended.

– Members of our Club 55+ are quarantined at home, but can receive online advice from our specialists.

– We normally run a shelter for women with children who have nowhere to go or cannot leave home.  This is run from premises in Bishkek City Hall, which is now in quarantine. During the emergency, clients who need prolonged assistance are being transferred to a Transit Social Home supported by an international donor, which will continue to accept clients if necessary.

We have far fewer appeals now because victims of violence are afraid to call, because they are in limited rooms with their abuser. We are distributing our phone number and are ready to provide online advice and services of the Transit Social Home. In case of a threat top life, victims or witnesses should contact the police by phone 102.

Tolerspace, Kyiv, Ukraine

Tolerspace focuses on preventing domestic and sexual violence and harassment, problems which are particularly acute just now.  See here (insert link) for an interim report of their project using a graphic novel to get messages across to young people.  COVID-19 has also required adjustments.

Anna Lenchovska reports:

We have had to cancel peer-guide training because of the national lockdown but are continuing our online activities.

Luckily the day before the lockdown I presented the graphic novel on TV:

Child psychologists and teachers ordered 35 copies of the comic to work with teenage girls. 

We have started an Instagram campaign for the comic on, and are expecting a review by a 16-year-old editor on “Bukmol” (Bookworm), which promotes reading by teenagers. (  We are also planning Instagram broadcasts by child psychologists in April on protection from sexual harassment and cyberbullying. 

A Documentary Film Festival was also postponed and transferred online. So this will be an online alternative to our presentation. Online presentation of the comic will be included in the Human Rights Programme at the DocuDays Festival, to be held April 24 – May 2. 

Meanwhile we are trying to survive as an NGO.

In April we finish a 2-year educational project. In June we were going to have an annual teenager camp “Building bridges not walls” for 60 participants. In February and March we were preparing for the camp, enrolling participants. But now we have to cancel this event and return the money to parents who have already paid. Expenses on administration, website, social media promotion came out of our NGO emergency budget, as we could not return partial amount to parents, and needed to pay the people who worked on this project. We have a small amount left over that will help us survive until June, still able to pay salaries and rent.  One bit of good news is that we will receive a discount for office rent for April and May. And in May we will move to much smaller office, leaving only our bookkeeper with documents there. Also good news are that we are training how to work online, to conduct webinars etc. But of course it does not replace live encounters. I am dreaming to be able to conduct our teenager projects offline:) and also to keep great specialists we are working with – but that needs finances. Will see what opportunities will appear.

Winds of Change, Odessa, Ukraine

Olga Alexeeva reports

Now is a time not to give in to panic. Our psychological condition is directly linked to our ability to fight the virus. Virus, pandemic, quarantine, self-isolation and death are the words used in disaster movies. Of course we are all afraid and worried. Some of us go into denial and blatantly disobey the rules on social distancing. All types of reaction are natural responses to stress.

At this time we are maintaining contact with our women on-line. We are trying to make this time less stressful and more productive through simple actions, which any of us can do. So we have set up on-line meetings in which we discuss the following topics:

  1. Information about and prevention of COVID-19: how to protect ourselves in different ways (in Ukraine face masks are only available on-line and at considerable cost – one mask usable for two hours costs US$1, a lot for our women). We also discuss myths and facts about the virus, so as to reduce panic and to teach women to evaluate the information they receive about the pandemic.
  2. Establishing a daily routine for yourself or your family: you aren’t going to work and children aren’t going to school or kindergarten, you shouldn’t go out. While your daily routine has changed, your life shouldn’t become chaotic. We exchange tips on managing our lives, and discuss what works and what doesn’t help to keep us comfortable.
  3. Supporting children: children too are facing new things. They are worried and this affects their behaviour. We hear from our women that children can’t get to sleep, wake up in the night, share fears they never had before, they seek more attention, cling and often cry. If they sense that their parents are anxious, then they are anxious too. We talk to mothers about how to support the children, suggest games to play and creative activities to do at home.
  4. Personal boundaries: psychologists expect a higher rate of divorces, because not everyone will cope with closer proximity. We try to persuade women to negotiate with partners and accept that couples need breaks from each other. The desire to be alone is normal. For women already noticing signs of tension we arrange individual counselling.
  5. Sport: it’s time to start doing sport, or if you already do it, actively continue. Quarantine will end eventually and summer is approaching. So we organise on-line fitness sessions, run by our colleague Oksana Maksimenko.
  6. Personal development: this is something we shouldn’t forget. The aim is to stay within our comfort zone. We have created a range of on-line courses and master classes. Unfortunately, we have only found free courses in critical thinking, which is important, in English. So the Winds of Change team has decided to set itself the task to adapt such an on-line course for Ukrainian women with secondary education, which will be useful not just for our women but for all women in Ukraine.

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