Fatima* was tired. She moved like a person who was tired. Despite her otherwise evident youth, she moved like someone decades older than her years. A difficult life does that to people. It makes the days and weeks stretch forever into an endless drudgery of chores and responsibilities with only the faintest light at the end of a never-ending tunnel.

A woman of the world

Sadly, Fatima is not alone in her seemingly solo struggles. She endures the very same trials of millions of other women in the developing world. From sun up to sun down, she shoulders an enormous amount of responsibility. So many women like Fatima are fighting to create lives for themselves – caring for their children, fetching water, growing food, preparing meals and often even running small businesses – anything and everything they can do to earn money and provide for their families.

Fatima spends six hours a day walking to and from the water source nearest to her small African village. The terrain is rough and challenging to navigate, and often she has her three small children trailing behind her, doing their best to keep up with their busy and hard-working mother. Imagine this mother’s burden on the trek home from the water source when Fatima has herself, her three small children – now exhausted and hungry – and additionally she will be hefting a 44-pound container of water for the entire three hours walk home over the muddy and rocky path.

From struggle to success

Women like Fatima work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, but earn only 10 percent of the world’s income. It comes as no surprise then that 70 percent of the 1.3 billion people worldwide in extreme poverty are women and girls.  Thankfully, there are organizations that recognize such struggles and have made it their life’s work to enact positive change in the lives of women and children across the globe.

Fatima’s story begins as a struggle, but is progressing as a success. Humanitarian organizations have helped Fatima — and many other women like her — gain emotional confidence and a community of support. The women have been able to pool their resources to make clothing, purchase supplies and make loans to its members — all of which have been repaid on time. Another member says, “It has saved us from looking for someone’s handout. This project has taught us the culture of saving.”

“It has saved us from looking for someone’s handout. This project has taught us the culture of saving.”

It goes both ways too. It’s a culture of helping that benefits every single person involved. George Guimaraes, president and CEO for PCI (Project Concern International), had this to say: “In my travels working with PCI, I have seen many things. I know one thing for certain; that is how the wide expanse of our entire world seems much smaller when I look into the smiling faces of women and children who desperately needed our help, our guidance. Providing them with that help has been its own reward. There’s no feeling quite like the one of knowing you have helped to improve the life of another person.”

Key stats surrounding disaster relief

  • The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters shows an average 65 percent greater frequency in natural disasters over the last decade.
  • Women and children are often the most affected by emergencies, particularly children under the age of five, and single female-headed households.
  • Geographically, Africa and Asia are home to over half of all natural disasters and more than three-quarters of all complex emergencies.
  • Poor and marginalized populations are the most vulnerable to emergencies.
  • In the conflicts of the 1990s, 95 percent of the deaths were non-combatants, mostly from malnutrition and disease.