, 26 November, 2020 / 5:48 PM
The All African Council of Churches (AACC) and other Faith-based actors in Africa are commencing 16 days of activism across the continent to create awareness about Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV), which has reportedly skyrocketed during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The activism is set to be launched Friday, November 27 during a virtual and physical session at the AACC Desmond Tutu Conference Center in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
After the launch, faith-based partner organizations will be allowed to formulate programs of their own to observe the 16 days of creating awareness about SGBV menace in view of curbing it.
In a statement shared with ACI Africa Thursday, November 26, the leadership of AACC expresses optimism that the 16-day initiative will yield increased action by faith-based actors to eliminate all forms of violence against women and children during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the statement, AACC officials note that gender inequality and all forms of GBV are contrary to Christ’s mission of fullness and abundant life for all people and regret that the vice has been “normalized” in society.
“All forms of GBV are a violation of human dignity and God’s image in every human being. They are threats to the value of social relationships and their role in the stability and prosperity of the entire human race,” AACC officials say in a statement ahead of the November 27 activism launch.
They add, “The notion of gender inequality has been normalized in such a way that it has become characteristic of human existence and has shaped both secular and religious world view.”
Other faith-based actors set to participate in the activism are the World Council of Churches Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy (WCC-EHAIA), the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (WCC- EDAN), Christian Aid, Side by Side, the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA), World Vision, and Faith to Action Network.
The faith actors reference estimates by World Health Organization (WHO) that about 1 in 3 (35 percent) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner in their lifetime.
They say that in Africa, effects of gender inequality account for the disproportionate prevalence of HIV and AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, poverty and ignorance.
According to the leaders of the faith-based organizations, gender inequality continues to be sustained by “deeply rooted patriarchal governance structures and settings, discriminatory sex and gender-based stereotypes and norms among other contributing factors.”
AACC officials observe that GBV escalates during pandemics and that the vice affects men and women differently.
“Women and girls are more exposed to sexual exploitation under weak support systems. Similarly, significant increase in SGBV and domestic violence has been witnessed globally since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic,” the leaders of the Nairobi-based continental entity say.
The 16-day activism will also address widespread violation of children’s rights, which the faith leaders say has also been on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic when children are out of school and are confined in homes to minimize the risks of COVID-19.
Over the years, the 16 Days of Activism has always been an effective strategy of calling upon people within the African region and beyond, to engage in the critical task of promoting gender equity and equality and preventing violence against women and girls.
The faith leaders are optimistic that with faith-driven activities across the continent, change will be realized in gender interactions and that cases of SGBV will go down.
“Globally, over 80 percent of the population identifies with a religion,” AACC leadership says in the statement shared with ACI Africa November 26, and adds, “Religion is a powerful force for social and cultural change, particularly in the continent of Africa with cognizance that it can also be instrumentalized for self-serving purposes.”
It is the significant influence of religion on the world’s second largest continent, AACC officials underscore, that “the need to strengthen and expand sustained engagement with a range of faith actors, religious institutions and theological institutions of learning to engage in the 16 Days of Activism against SGBV and Child abuse cannot be over-emphasized.”
Africa’s faith-based actors are important “in amplifying and safeguarding the ideals of common humanity and inherent dignity of every human person,” AACC leaders say.
At the launch themed “From Awareness to Action”, facilitators will go beyond highlighting the impact of pandemic on gender justice and child protection to bring out practical interventions by faith actors to eliminate GBV and child abuse during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
In their concept note, the representatives of faith leaders in Africa acknowledge with appreciation their collaboration, which they say “affirms the spirit of togetherness in the faith-based responses to GBV related issues.”
The collaboration, they say, also provides a platform for galvanizing regional efforts towards SGBV activism on the African continent.
The leaders note that Africa “urgently” needs such activism for the success of future faith-based responses to gender inequality and child abuse.
The leaders further condemn SGBV, which they say is contrary to Christ’s mission of fullness and abundant life for all people.
“All forms of GBV are a violation of human dignity and God’s image in every human being. They are threats to the value of social relationships and their role in the stability and prosperity of the entire human race,” AACC officials say in their November 26 statement, the eve of the launch of 16-day initiative.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa