Meet the women at the forefront of Covid-19 response in Italy

26.06.20

Rosita and Daniela, who support ActionAid’s coronavirus response in Italy, share their experiences and talk about their vital work which keeps women and girls safe during the pandemic.

Rosita and Daniela, who support ActionAid’s coronavirus response in Italy, share their experiences and talk about their vital work which keeps women and girls safe during the pandemic.

Rosita (left) and Daniela (right) support ActionAid’s coronavirus response in Italy.

In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, Italy was hit particularly hard, with high numbers of cases in many parts of the country.

The pandemic affected every part of life in Italy, including the work of ActionAid.

“During emergencies, inequality increases.”

I am Daniela Capalbo, a Project Officer at ActionAid Italy based in Naples and my work focuses on initiatives to help asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups in my city.

Daniela Capalbo, a Project Officer at ActionAid Italy, helps asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups in Naples during the coronavirus pandemic.

Daniela Capalbo, a Project Officer at ActionAid Italy, helps asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups in Naples during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the ways in which this help is provided is ActionAid Italy’s Seeds Project, which has provided emergency aid to around 450 at-risk families in Naples and Milan during the coronavirus pandemic.

This support has gone to both Italian and migrant households where people have lost jobs in hospitality, handicrafts, and other occasional jobs involving irregular contracts. It also includes single mothers, disabled people, and elderly people living alone.

Together with diaspora communities, associations and activists, we identify the most disadvantaged families in the districts of Vasto, Forcella and Piazza Garibaldi. I coordinate the purchase of food from producers who are part of the Slow Food network, as well as other basic goods, and I manage home deliveries.

This work has been particularly important to residents who do not meet the requirements for government support – those who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

The associations and representatives of diaspora communities have played a fundamental role in identifying the recipients. People and families who would have been excluded from other forms of support and who are outside institutional radars — therefore invisible.

The Seeds Project is absolutely vital during this time of crisis as often during emergencies, inequality increases.

It is essential to take care of those who do not have other forms of aid because the wellbeing of the community depends on the wellbeing of each and every person.”

“Our work does not stop” – Meet Rosita

Rosita Altobelli is a lawyer and co-ordinator of the Donatella Tellini Centre, a support centre in L’Aquila province, funded by ActionAid Italy, which supports women who are experiencing, or have experienced, abuse.

Rosita Altobelli co-ordinates a support centre, funded by ActionAid Italy, helping women who experienced or are at risk of violence and abuse.

Rosita Altobelli co-ordinates a support centre, funded by ActionAid Italy, helping women who experienced or are at risk of violence and abuse.

Her region was hit by an earthquake in 2009, and one of the results of this was that many people have since been forced to live in tight living spaces. This has proved problematic for women in abusive relationships, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“For women who experience abuse within their families, quarantine coincides with an increase of violence: isolation, forced cohabitation, and economic instability in this Covid-19 emergency period are factors that make women and their children more exposed to domestic violence.”

When the pandemic hit, ActionAid made every effort to ensure vulnerable women were still protected. Our #Closed4Women fund helped women’s refuges and support centres like Rosita’s to keep operating.

We helped address the need for protective equipment (such as masks, gloves, and sanitiser), as well as shelters needing extra funds to find rooms in guesthouses for women fleeing violence.

For Rosita, it has been all about adapting to the shifting reality of the situation.

Our work does not stop. We’ve organised ourselves to provide legal and psychological counselling via phone or Skype. We aren’t leaving the women whom we were already looking after on their own – we are keeping in touch with them and we are available via phone 24/7 for requests for help.”

One concern for Rosita is the decrease in number of phone calls. This may sound like good news, but it could be anything but.

As she explains: “Women who are confined in their home face difficulties in seeking help, as most of the time they do not have the possibility to make a phone call without being listened to and having the guarantee of privacy.”

With the continued help of ActionAid’s supporters, Rosita and her team are able to remain a lifeline to women in her region who are living with the threat, or the aftermath, of violence.