As the COVID 19 pandemic continues to spread uncertainty and anxiety, bringing many changes to human life, numerous reports have poured in on the escalating cases of gender-based violence in regions most affected by the global outbreak.
Southern Africa is no exception. As the pandemic rages on, alarming numbers of violence against women and children continue to climb. In 2019, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 25% of women in Malawi have experienced physical or sexual spousal violence and 35%-45% levels were even higher in Zimbabwe.
To combat the issues of security and peace in the immediate communities, leaders from civil society in Southern Africa gathered virtually on November 30 for the “Southern Africa Virtual Peace Summit”. In attendance were leaders in various fields, including political, religious, youth, women, education, media, and civil society organizations. The event was hosted by Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), an international peace NGO affiliated with the UN ECOSOC and the UN DGC.
This summit was especially meaningful in that leaders from various fields in Southern Africa have gathered for peace in the local community. Participants and leaders had time to look back on peace activities in the community during 2021 and make plans for peace activities in 2022.
The topics that the participants discussed included conversations to solve various issues of violence, the current lack of peace projects in the COVID 19 pandemic, and how peace education can fill the gap, as well as peace activities in pan-religious fields.
One of the guest speakers, Dorothy Goredema, a Peace and Development Lecturer of Masvingo State University in Zimbabwe said “ I’m excited to join hands with other Southern African countries to promote the work of peace.” Goredema added that she was encouraged that despite facing the COVID-19 situation, stakeholders were continuing to make efforts to come together through virtual platforms to plan and fight against issues that hinder peace.
“Since gender inequality is one of the strongest push factors for both external and internal conflict, peace can be achieved if our activities and projects bring out true equality between men”, she said. “We need practical laws and institutions that go beyond simply wishing for peace. As such, there is a need for support and advocacy of DPCW into international law.”
Meanwhile, the DPCW(Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War) was drafted by the HWPL International Law Peace Committee, which is comprised of prominent international law experts from 15 different countries and proclaimed on 14 March 2016 in the form of a Preamble, 10 articles, and 38 clauses. and It contains the essential objectives of “realizing peace” of HWPL.
Gift Khumalo, founder of Youth In Action, a youth organization based in South Africa said, “In South Africa, we have a lot of crime, people have a lot of firearms. I hope the message of peace needs to be spread so people can live a better life.” Khumalo also added that things were hard in 2021 but news about continuing to spread the word of peace through HWPL became hope. “I support HWPL’s mission of peace and we will be with you next year as well and I aim to make sure that I invite more people.”
The event was a time to confirm that peace activities could be carried out online beyond the limitations of the pandemic environment, that is, face-to-face communication and experience through offline meetings and HWPL South Africa said, “In 2022, we will try to apply HWPL’s various international activities to the local community.”