Recovering and rebuilding after Covid-19

Read about the successes of these projects that were funded by a special contribution from the Government of Canada.

Posted on 03/02/2023
By Commonwealth Foundation

The world is emerging—slowly but surely—from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In November 2020, the Commonwealth Foundation launched a Special Grants Call to support those worst affected by Covid-19. The programme, which received extra funding from the Government of Canada, provided financial assistance to civil society organisations in Commonwealth countries. The grants targeted organisations that sought to work constructively and closely with governments in recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Partners were tasked with delivering projects in a unique and challenging context. As governments adopted large-scale – and sometimes draconian – emergency pandemic measures, the space for civil society to operate shrank. For example, restrictions on movement often limited access to those most in need of help. The situation also took its toll on the physical and mental well-being of the dedicated staff and volunteers running the projects and organisations.

‘Partners were tasked with delivering projects in a unique and challenging context… as governments adopted large-scale emergency pandemic measures.’

All 10 projects funded by the extra contribution from the Government of Canada overcame these and many other obstacles to be able to document real impact. Partners reported increased awareness of key issues relating to Covid-19 within their beneficiary communities. The projects also helped marginalised communities to better advocate for their rights surrounding Covid-19. Most notably, some projects actually contributed to a significant change in government Covid-19 policy and pandemic response.

Below is a snapshot of just a few of the funded projects. The three featured organisations successfully engaged with governments to assist marginalised communities and influence pandemic response.

Some of our Covid-19 grantees reflect on their achievements.

In Bangladesh, Turning Point Foundation’s project worked to change national Covid-19 policies to better account for people with disabilities. Their collaborative efforts—which brought disabled peoples’ organisations together with the Ministry of Health—helped Government reach out to people with disabilities and factor their needs into Bangladesh’s Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan. This led to 2,000 people with disabilities, their parents and caregivers being registered for the Covid-19 vaccine and accessing the government support they were entitled to in the form of cash, food parcels, soaps, masks and jabs.

‘All 10 projects overcame many other obstacles to document real impact.’

The South African Government’s Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant was a lifeline for thousands of South African citizens deprived of work during the pandemic—yet the initial income threshold meant as many as 10.5 million poorer citizens couldn’t access the funds they needed. The Black Sash Trust spearheaded a campaign to persuade the government to change course: using a combination of advocacy and strategic litigation. On 16 August 2022, the Department of Social Development announced amendments to the SRD grant regulation that addressed two of the key issues raised in Black Sash’s campaign, dramatically widening access to the government’s life-saving programme. The R350 monthly income threshold was raised and the reliance on bank account verification checks, which had prevented many families with shared bank accounts from accessing the SRD, was overturned. 

In Ghana, electricity shortages prevented rural communities from receiving television and radio updates on Covid-19 relief programmes. Women Integrated Development Organisation gathered feedback from 20 rural communities in the Upper West and Bono East regions of Ghana on Covid-19 relief programmes, which was shared with regional authorities. The Ghana Enterprise Agency organised community awareness sessions to learn about accessing government support. This allowed over 564 women and 213 persons with disabilities in rural communities to submit applications for government support. 

Constructive engagement—where civil society and government work hand in hand towards a common end —lies at the heart of what the Commonwealth Foundation believes in and helps to support. Three years after it all began, we are still to fully understand the social and economic costs of the pandemic. However, some things are already abundantly clear. We understand very well that the pandemic – and responses to the pandemic – affected people and countries very differently. Across the Commonwealth, it was the poor and the marginalised who were most at risk. These projects made a difference. But perhaps their most valuable contribution was the clear confirmation that cooperation and collaboration between civil society and government can work to transform lives.  

These are just a few notable achievements of our Covid-19 grants partners. Information on all 10 projects supported under this call can be found here. 

For updates on our grants programme pleasesign up here.