Celebrating the heroes and heroines of Valentine’s Day

This post was written by Dorothy Okatch, Campaigns Practicum Attaché for ONE Africa and 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow.

February is the month of love and this year I am honoured to be able to share a list of individuals and organisations that have put a spin on the traditional meaning of Valentine’s Day and used it to give back to their communities. This year, these groups made February 14th an all-inclusive day that catered not only for couples but also for people in need.

Orphaned and vulnerable children, people with disabilities and victims of gender-based violence all received some love on this day. Below are some of my 2016 Valentine’s Day heroes and heroines:

HeForShe Run – Botswana

The International Working Group on Women in Sport in Botswana (IWG) and the Men and Boys for Gender Equality co-hosted an event that brought a difference to Valentines Day. Instead of getting glammed up and going on romantic dates in fancy restaurants, couples were sweating and panting side by side in the name of love.

The organisations hosted a 5km fun run to lobby men to be part of the gender equality movement in the country. It created an encouraging space for men to sign up and show their support in the fight for gender equality. The HeForShe run emphasised one key message for men – Stop being observers and start supporting gender equality!

The HeForShe run in Botswana promoting male support of gender equality movement. Image credit: HeForShe Botswana / Facebook

The HeForShe run in Botswana promoting male support of gender equality movement. Image credit: HeForShe Campaign Champion Botswana on Facebook

Share Love Not Rape – Nigeria

Through her charity, the famous Nigerian Nollywood actress Tonto Dikeh hosted a Valentine’s Day event with the theme “Share Love, Not Rape’. The Tonto Dikeh Foundation advocates for the eradication of violence against women and aims to raise public awareness on the issues of the girl child.

#ShareLoveNotRape extended invitations to government agencies, businesses and the public. It was hosted at the Ijamido Children’s Home. Lectures were given on rape, the importance of reporting, seeking medical help and counselling.

 Crystal Ladies Association – Ghana

The New Life orphanage in Nungua, Ghana was not to be left out in the Valentine’s Day celebrations. A network of women, the Crystal Ladies’ Association, donated goods to show their love to the kids this year.

The donations included clothing, toiletries and food. Members also committed to finding new ways to contribute to the other needs the children might have throughout the year – such as funding for education.  They used the opportunity to mentor and inspire the children and encourage them to study.

Purple Nectar – Nigeria

Wema Bank employees in Nigeria went above and beyond by each donating a day’s wage for their initiative, Purple Nectar. The staff selected ten individuals who would benefit from their generosity.

The recipients have various health challenges or have found themselves in difficult situations. The bank asked the public to leave messages on the website to be presented to the recipients as a way of encouraging them and showing them some love.

The flower drive – Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, a university initiative called The Yellow Movement AAU, hosted a flower sale on Valentine’s Day to raise awareness on gender equality and the elimination of gender based violence.

The funds raised were used to purchase basic necessities such as sanitary pads, and soap for needy students on the campus.

flower_drive

The Yellow Movement AUU at their flower drive to raise awareness of gender based violence. Image credit: Blen Sahilu

A gesture of love on the day of love – what better way than to spend Valentine’s Day than impacting the life of someone in need?

If you’d like to help someone who is fighting for positive change, take a look at our #StandWithEva campaign and share the love right now!