11.03.2021. The theme chosen for International Women's Day 2021, "Women's Leadership: For an Equal Future in the World of Covid-19", reflects an obvious fact: the importance of women's contributions. Faced with the health and social emergency caused by the pandemic in the Republic of Congo, INTERHOLCO has taken into account the leadership potential of women by involving them in its intervention strategy.
For their part, the women of Ngombé have mobilised their skills, knowledge and networks to effectively carry out the prevention and mitigation plan.
First and foremost, in health services: women have proven themselves on the front line, as health professionals, midwives and care providers working at the INTERHOLCO medical centre as well as in an ad hoc COVID-19 emergency unit in the state medical centre, fully equipped by INTERHOLCO.
Then, in the workplace: employees, administrative staff and transporters of essential goods were able to work safely thanks to disinfection and hygiene, guaranteed twice a day by a team of cleaning ladies.
Special thanks go to the members of the INTERHOLCO social team. They have been working for years with 16,000 inhabitants in more than 80 villages, most of which located in the forest. Usually, the meetings that are held focus on Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). Throughout 2020, many more meetings added up. Objective: to raise the awareness of all village residents, especially women, about safety measures.
In addition to training in local languages and donations of sanitation materials, INTERHOLCO produced an information leaflet, an initiative jointly carried out with Odzala Kokoua National Park. On those visual aids, entrusted to the villages of the Park and in the Ngombé forest as an aide-memoire, men and women recall the right gestures to adopt and which bad practices should be abandoned. Drawings give concrete examples, for instance in case of travelling by canoe or car. A safety distance of at least 1 metre should be kept when shopping at the local market, an activity that directly targets women, as is wearing masks when selling fruit or cassava to truck drivers stopping at villages along the road.
When logistics became saturated, the COVID-19 emergency empowered local women. Seamstresses teamed up in a cooperative that INTERHOLCO motivated to craft more than 15,000 masks, based on a model offered by the French Association for Standardisation (AFNOR). During lockdown, the school in Ngombé was converted into a production workshop. INTERHOLCO paid 600 FCFA (1 EUR) for each finished piece.
The auto-produced masks were donated to employees, to the villages closest to the national road, to the neighbouring Odzala Kokoua National Park and to the women sellers at the Ngombé market. Wearing masks allowed the female vendors to stay protected, while continuing to ensure the sale of food items, an important source of income at a critical time.
INTERHOLCO would like to thank all the women who, employees or not, have been on the front line, putting in incredible efforts.
INTERHOLCO offers Sustainable Hardwood 'Made in Africa' as a responsible solution to promote better living conditions (construction with wood), reduce climate change, and increase social justice. As FSC-certified producer specialized in producing and trading logs, sawn timber, glued laminated scantlings and other products, INTERHOLCO manages the entire chain, from forest to customers since 1962. Harvesting wood selectively, INTERHOLCO protects 1.1 million hectares of natural forest from permanent conversion to agricultural land, giving 16’000 local inhabitants access to quality basic services and keeping the habitat of thousands of gorillas and elephants.
Communications contact INTERHOLCO
Tullia Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal
INTERHOLCO AG, Schutzengelstr. 36, 6340 Baar, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)41 767 03 82