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Minister hosts discussion on impact of pandemic on women and children

23 Apr 2020

The discussion highlighted how women and children and affected by domestic violence during the lockdown.

Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane hosted a webinar on how the Covid-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting women.

The minister was joined by the Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, and United Nations Women representative Anne Githuku-Shongwe. Panellists also included Bafana Khumalo from Sonke Gender Justice, Marlene le Roux from the Presidential Working Group on Disability, Dr Vuyo Mahlati from South African Women in Dialogue, Dr Shaheda Omar from the Teddy Bear Clinic and Dr Zubeida Dangor from the National Shelter Movement.

Mkhize said that government has made positive strides in measures to address gender-based violence (GBV) and that there is a worry of regress caused by the number of GBV-related calls received by the police during the lockdown.

Githuku-Shongwe said that they have been urging countries to take note of a ‘shadow pandemic’ which refers to gender-based violence, as many women may be at home with their abusers. “Across the world, we are seeing these numbers grow, it doesn’t matter which region it is, but we are seeing between 30 and 200 per cent growth in the number of calls in terms of domestic violence.”

Omar added that violence against children has also been a ‘hidden crisis’. “During this lockdown period we are realising that home is a place of danger rather than safety where many children are trapped, we’ve seen numerous cases of physical abuse and sexual abuse.”

Githuku-Shongwe said that the issue of gender-based violence is pervasive and it is important to determine how to boost capacity to deal with these incidents. “One of the big things we’ve been discussing is how capacity is being utilised in this Covid period because we know a lot of technical people within the department are preoccupied with dealing with the urgency of Covid and so don’t have the time to deal with GBV.”

She highlighted that as UN Women they are ready to provide the technical support needed to bolster this capacity. “There is so much capacity in civil society and people are calling and sending messages from the private sector asking how they can help. The biggest outcome for me is we need to create the kind of platform where everybody can be involved and find a way to help.”

MIDRAND REPORTER

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