On Monday, 8 March, we celebrated the one hundred and eleventh International Women’s Day. For one hundred and eleven years, we have dedicated the 8th of March to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and sending out a call to action for accelerating gender equality. A century and a decade since the first International Women’s Day, yet gender inequality and women’s socio-economic empowerment remain unfinished business.
Absent from the dominant narrative about the societal impact of COVID-19 has been the plight of indigenous peoples, who tend to disproportionately experience higher rates of infection, particularly women when confronted with health crises emerging from modern pandemics. This is linked to cultural factors, as well as weakened access to healthcare and linguistic differences that contribute to higher rates of infection.
Despite COVID-19, Civil Society Remains as the Vanguard of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa
This year we celebrate two defining milestones in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, namely the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 of 2000. 2020 will also be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic. How the pandemic will redefine the role of women in the peace and security context is still not clear. However, it seems COVID-19 has not been able to disrupt the fortitude and commitment of civil society in Africa. It was civil society that realised UNSCR 1325 in 2000 and it will be civil society that safeguard and implement UNSCR 1325 in 2020 and beyond, through their activism, advocacy, capacity building and conflict resolution practice.
Stigma and misinformation from COVID-19 are such clear and present threats to global health that they are causing as much concern to policymakers as the pandemic itself. These attitudes and behaviours are killing people and causing harm through hate speech, disinformation, discrimination and xenophobia.
COVID-19 has provoked a series of acts – such as stigma and discrimination against certain groups – across the continent that have exacerbated human rights concerns. According to data captured in the ACCORD COVID-19 Conflict and Resilience Monitor data set, to date 22 out of the 55 African Union Member States have reported incidents of stigmatisation and discrimination due to COVID-19. Such incidents call for the continuation of society-wide measures to raise awareness and disseminate information that this is a worldwide pandemic affecting anyone, regardless of race or culture.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an impact on peace support operations (PSOs) in many ways. Not only has the increase and spread of the pandemic affected PSO personnel inside their respective field missions in terms of stress, morale, command and control of forces, but it has also disrupted their routine activities, including confidence-building activities and the rotation of troops after completing their tours of duty.
Restrictions on human interactions have become mandatory in certain countries with imposed social distancing requirements. Many public services have become highly limited, if not completely halted; leaving persons with disabilities abandoned in terms of getting access to essential healthcare and social services.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the global order, impacting our social, economic and political efforts across the globe including Africa. The African Union (AU) in collaboration with its partners has led interventions to contain the spread of COVID-19 on the continent with the leadership rallying to ensure robust preparedness for the aftermath of the pandemic.
Regional unity is the strength against the pandemic in West Africa and the Sahel. But be careful not to forget fundamental human rights.
COVID-19 should alert us to the reality that developing a vaccine cannot be a national project. The pandemic is a call for global cooperation and solidarity.