Deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri

Phiri detailed how, across the Africa continent, injustices and gender-based violence against women increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, she said, in Cameroon, “almost 80% of employees in the agricultural sector are women. Additionally, she said, they comprise 83% of Cameroon’s informal economy; making them the highest at risk group for COVID-19 infections and collateral damage to the impoverished and war-impacted economy. 

“Many were forced to find alternate means of survival, some to the extreme of coerced undesirable relationships,” she said. “In Burkina Faso, stories are told of rural women feeling imprisoned in their village subsequent to the pandemic restrictions.”

However, despite the challenges faced, African women of all religions remain resilient in the face of untold and unexpected setbacks, Phiri said. 

“In countries like Ghana, many women have become breadwinners, thus earning them a voice in decision-making,” she said. “In addition, in some spaces women continue to provide support for each other in community, taking turns to offer help even in the face of social distancing and lockdowns.”

Phiri also said that, globally, and especially in Africa, the WCC Thursdays in Black campaign for a world free from rape and violence has been adopted by churches, schools, ecumenical organizations and people of good will.

“Subsequently, the WCC has supported and invested in strengthening African women’s agency during the COVID-19 pandemic through webinars and podcasts, online Bible studies, radio campaigns, school curricula, university mentorship programmes, and more,” said Phiri.

“We recognize that this cannot effect the change we need by itself,” she said. “Nevertheless, with the joint efforts of everyone, we can prevent the efforts of dehumanized consciences, to realize a world that strengthens resilience and justice; not only for African women burdened by the impact of COVID-19, but for all.”

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