Centering Women's Voices and Choices in COVID-19: Learning from CARE's Women Respond Initiative


  • Kalkidan Lakew Yihun CARE
  • Emily Janoch CARE
  • Vidhya Sriram CARE


CARE; COVID-19; Women Respond; Women's Voices


COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted people from historically disadvantaged gender, racial, and ethnic backgrounds and has worsened inequalities worldwide. The pandemic exacerbated existing gender norms and reversed hard-earned women's rights worldwide. Women in developing countries have faced severe gendered impacts, ranging from reduced livelihood and food security to increased risk of violence at home and in their communities. Despite the challenges, women showed outstanding leadership and contribution, yet their voices and needs remain underrepresented in decision-making. This calls for a deliberate shift in how development actors engage women; such a shift requires changes to the research processes to ensure women's voices are at the center of the decision-making process. This case study shares the lesson from CARE's Women Respond initiative that focused on listening to women's experiences in this pandemic and how women use findings to advance their leadership in their contexts. 

Author Biographies

Kalkidan Lakew Yihun, CARE

Kalkidan Lakew Yihun is currently the Program Coordinator for CARE's Women (in VSLAs) Respond initiative, in which she focuses on listening and learning from women and girls in Village Savings & Loan Associations (VSLAs) to explore the impact of COVID-19 and other crises, how they are leading, and their priority needs with the aim to advance women's participation and leadership. Before this, Kalkidan served in different gender technical advisor roles at CARE supporting gender equity and diversity in organizational processes and gender integration in food security programming in Ethiopia. Kalkidan is passionate about gender equity and justice and has over ten years of experience working on programs focusing on gender equality, women's economic empowerment, youth empowerment, and food security. Kalkidan has a BA in Sociology and Social Anthropology and MA in Human Rights from Addis Ababa University, and a MA in International Development Policy from Duke University.

Emily Janoch, CARE

Emily Janoch is the Senior Director for Thought Leadership and Knowledge Management and Learning at CARE, focusing on ways to better learn from, share, and use implementation experiences to improve impact, build dignity, and eradicate poverty.  With 16 years of experience, she is an expert in designing systems to capture and share information across many sources and facilitating conversations with practitioners and decision makers. She has a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Masters' in Public Policy in Internationals and Global Affairs from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Vidhya Sriram, CARE

Vidhya Sriram is the Global Director for VSLA at CARE USA. Vidhya specializes in designing and implementing programs focused on targeting the specific needs, constraints and capabilities of women and girls and marginalized populations in CARE's programming. She manages CARE's VSLA (Village Saving & Loan Association) 2030 strategy implementation, the only scaling strategy that CARE has formally endorsed and one of CARE's signature programs. Vidhya works across programmatic areas to transform broad organizational goals into practical solutions. She has worked with over 30 CARE country offices and specializes in supporting the design of integrated programs that build on CARE's global experience and ongoing initiatives. Vidhya is originally from India and holds a master's degree in Public Policy from the LBJ School of Public Affairs.


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