FHN member in focus: Community Healthcare Initiative (Liberia)
Naomi Tulay-Solanke founded the Community Health Care Initiative (CHI) during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia. During this challenging time CHI took pride in responding with a feminist perspective, which saw the value and needs of all people in the communities they worked with.
“We were able to respond to needs that were specific to women, such as the need for sanitary pads. Most of the bigger INGO responses weren’t taking these into consideration. We had dialogues with communities to identify what their needs were. The community was involved in telling us what they needed.”
After Ebola, many of the INGOs quickly began to leave - but the real work of healing had just begun. CHI focused their efforts on supporting women who had responded to Ebola - in health centres, but also in their communities and homes:
“People had lost families, had lost livelihoods. We immediately moved into providing support with a focus on women’s health and livelihoods for women responders in order to help build coping mechanisms. We ran this with their consent and their contribution. We rebuilt together.”
The support they provided focused especially on self-care for leaders of community based women’s groups, who for months had put aside taking care of themselves as they supported everyone else.
After the outbreak subsided, Naomi and other women who had led humanitarian efforts realised the hundreds of women who had responded to Ebola had no collective voice to assert themselves in the humanitarian space in Liberia. They formed the Liberian Women’s Humanitarian Network, which is now comprised of 40 community service organisations. The Network ensures all women who respond to humanitarian needs in their communities have a space to engage in collective advocacy and response in Liberia.
Naomi and the Liberian Women’s Humanitarian Network have been actively involved with the Feminist Humanitarian Network since its inception. Naomi finds that the national network and Feminist Humanitarian Network both amplify women’s leadership and agency in humanitarian efforts.
“Together, we are able to make changes at the national level which is then reflected at global levels. We have been consistently engaged in the Feminist Humanitarian Network and this has influenced the work that we do in Liberia.”
Especially important for Naomi is Feminist Humanitarian Network’s commitment to inclusion:“The Feminist Humanitarian Network recognises the contributions of all people at the table. Youth (especially girls), persons with disabilities, and sexual minorities.”
Community Health Initiative, with the support of sister FHN member, IRC, will launch the Feminist Humanitarian Network in Liberia on Thursday, the 22nd of August.