The gender dimension of COVID-19

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Statement by Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, Executive Secretary of SADC, on commencement of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) today joins the world in kick-starting the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign running until 10 December 2020 during which the world brings gender-based violence to the fore and call for action to put an end to this social ill that has the potential of tearing our society apart.

This year’s theme of “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent and Collect” is quite pertinent as it highlights calls for a comprehensive multi-dimensional global response to GBV, especially in view of the worsening socio-economic conditions compounded by the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

SADC recognises GBV as a serious concern due to its multi-dimensional effects, and has adopted regional frameworks with the aim of tackling the phenomenon in a coordinated manner. In this regard, the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development promotes the empowerment of women as an approach to eliminate GBV and discrimination, and achieve gender equality and equity. In order to comprehensively address GBV, SADC Member States recently adopted the Regional Strategy and Framework of Action on Addressing Gender-Based Violence, and SADC Secretariat is facilitating and coordinating the development and implementation of harmonised actions to eliminate GBV in the region.

SADC commends the efforts and commitment demonstrated by SADC Member States to strengthen their respective responses to GBV, and encourage them to continue implementing concrete measures to combat the social problem. In this regard, the national campaigns against GBV, development of sex-offender registers, and capacity building initiatives for law enforcement agencies are some of the initiatives that are highly commendable. It is imperative that these measures are strengthened, especially in light of the increase in cases of GBV that were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we take part in the 16 Days of Activism Campaign during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it is important that we acknowledge the gender dimensions of this health pandemic, especially considering that women and children are more vulnerable to economic shocks brought about by such pandemics. We must consider a comprehensive and multi-stakeholder response to GBV as an essential service within the wider COVID-19 response at national levels.

As such, SADC calls upon all stakeholders, at both the national and regional levels, to cooperate towards eliminating this social ill from our society. Response to GBV is not the responsibility of the State apparatus alone. Let us, therefore, join hands and work together to take the right actions in supporting those who are vulnerable to GBV, especially women and children, to stay safe and free from violence and to avoid a double exposure to both COVID-19 and gender-based violence. – sadc.int

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