Catholic Nun Calls for “more awareness to prevent abuse at any level” in Southern Africa

Sr. Annah Theresa Nyadombo. Credit: ACI Africa

There is need for “more awareness” about the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults in Southern Africa, a Catholic Nun has said. 

In an interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Annah Theresa Nyadombo underscored the need for prevention, adding that the power of information can aid in preventing “abuse at any level” in the Southern African region.

“Prevention is very crucial in the church when you talk about abuse,” Sr. Nyadombo said during the May 18 interview on the sidelines of the three-day workshop for women Religious in Southern Africa on safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults.

The member of the Handmaids of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (HLMC) recalled her input during the workshop held at Padre Pio Retreat Center in South Africa’s Pretoria Archdiocese, saying, “During my presentation we discovered that we need more awareness; we must share more information to empower people, so that people know how to prevent abuse at any level.”

She added, “There are more than 15 forms of abuse in the list of prevention and safeguarding, but we are emphasizing the implementation of holistic approaches to address abuse and to prevent abuse.”


Sr. Nyadombo who is at the helm of the Catholic Education Commission and the Child Safeguarding Office of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) went on to highlight three levels of prevention that she had shared with participants during the May 17-19 workshop.

“I was quite happy when I was asked to present on preventing abuse; so, I focused on the three levels: we have the primary level for prevention, which deals with understanding the need for prevention,” she said, recalling her input during the workshop that was hosted by the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA).

The native of Zimbabwe added in reference to the second level of prevention, “We have the secondary level for prevention, which deals with human development.”

The third level of prevention, she said, is “the tertiary level, which is about behavior change, understanding our stages of development from a psychological perspective.”

Making reference to the five Rs of safeguarding (Recognize, Respond, Report, Record & Refer), the HLMC member said, “It was important for participants to understand the importance of the five Rs of safeguarding, because if you don’t understand the procedure then it’s difficult to deal with cases of abuse.”

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Sr. Nyadombo highlighted various aspects involved in the healing process. She said, “The healing part of safeguarding must be approached holistically. We have the physical part, we have the spiritual part, we have the social part, we have the intellectual part, we also have the environment.”

“Is the person safe in that environment? How best can we improve our relationship? How best can we extend our need to support each other in the Church?” she posed, recalling her interaction with participants during the workshop that brought together representatives of women Religious in the nine-member countries of IMBISA, namely, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

During the workshop, she further said, “We touched on secondary issues; we touched on the spiritual issues, social issues, as well as emotional healing. We also touched on trauma, the causes of trauma, how we identify a problem, which is making a person traumatized.”

In a statement issues May 20, representatives of women Religious in IMBISA express their commitment to promoting “the Aims and Vision of IMBISA in our respective countries, where everyone is going to operate in an inclusive approach and promote collaboration, Unity in diversity, Communion, Participation and Mission in a Synodal Church.”

“We look forward to ongoing Formation on Safeguarding for Bishops, Priests, Brothers, Sisters, and Laity, that all will have relevant knowledge on current Laws and issues on Safeguarding,” the women Religious say in their collective statement. 


They also express their commitment to promoting “the Values of Prudence, Trust, Love, Care and Compassion, Fortitude, Temperance in all our Pastoral Ministry regarding Victims, Survivors and Perpetrators, addressing all levels of Prevention.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.