As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we want to share with you stories of incredible women who have lived through conflict or disaster.

Over 120 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance because of conflict and natural disasters right now. The numbers are staggering. As followers of Jesus, we believe God has created every one of these individuals in His image. They are precious in His eyes, and His heart breaks for their suffering.

“We know that women and girls are often the most severely affected by these crises. We believe that if transformation is going to take place in communities, assistance must reach women and girls.”

We know that women and girls are often the most severely affected by these crises. We believe that if transformation is going to take place in communities, assistance must reach women and girls. We are committed to removing barriers to women and girls receiving the assistance they need.  Often this requires special emphasis by our local partners and teams. At the same time, we do not forget the needs of men and boys. We cannot see progress if we leave one gender behind. We strive to help the most vulnerable, and we know that gender is often an underlying cause for vulnerability.

In August 2017, when a violent crackdown against Rohingya people in Myanmar began, we heard of stories that were hard to comprehend. Rape, sexual abuse, and exploitation against women and girls was terrifyingly common. Six months later, the stories we hear in refugee camps in Bangladesh shake us to the core. Women and girls continue to live with memories of the trauma they have experienced. The extent of suffering that many have experienced is also becoming clearer. We are thankful for the network of support and partnership that have allowed us to provide food to many Rohingya refugees, but we know that there is still a long way to go. For women and girls living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, there is no clear end in sight. We cannot solve this problem, but we can help those living through it.

During a recent distribution, one of our staff met a woman by the name of Nurjahan. As Nurjahan waited in line for her food, she shared a bit of her story. The army in Myanmar took her husband away, forcing her and her children to flee to Bangladesh alone. They spent two days moving through the jungle before crossing the border. Now in a refugee camp, two of her children are malnourished. In spite of this, Nurjahan has an incredible strength. She fights for her children each day and is hopeful that they will be able to return home someday.

Photo Credit: Helen Manson/Tearfund New Zealand

We have also met incredible women who, when war began in Syria, fled their homes and everything they knew in order to protect their family. “I remember the day ISIS came to our street,” recalls Amal, a Syrian refugee now living in Lebanon. “My children and I sat in the back of a pick-up and got out of that area. For two months we lived on bread, tomatoes and onions. We lived in a house with no ceilings or doors, just rubble but it was all we had to sleep in.”

After leaving this home, Amal and her children crossed the border into Lebanon. The first months in Lebanon were incredibly difficult. Her children were emotionally traumatized by what they had experienced and she often begged along the roadside to feed her children.

“One day someone walked up to me and told me about a church that would give assistance. I remember it was winter and it was cold. We didn’t have any mattresses or blankets. The church came alongside us and gave us mattresses, blankets, clothes, food and fuel for a stove to keep warm.

Today this church is my second home. I’ve gone through many difficulties, but the church has not left me.”

We are thankful for our church partners throughout the Middle East that enable us to reach Amal and others in their time of need.

We know that when a conflict or natural disaster happens, women and girls often face an added pressure solely because of their gender. We stand firm in our belief that all people are created in the image of God, regardless of gender, and we will provide assistance, as we are able. There are countless other women of incredible strength, just like Nurjahan and Amal, living through tremendously difficult situations. We remain committed to helping these women, and those in greatest need, and strive to ensure that gender does not determine someone’s fate.