Ninety people of many faith traditions met in Durban to discuss the complexities of the faith response to sexual and gender-based violence and how faith communities can contribute to the national strategic plan being developed by the South African government.

It was a joyous occasion when old and new WWSOSA members met again at the annual general meeting and conference in Diakonia Centre, Durban.

Some of those present have been journeying with the coalition since its first shaky beginnings and commented on the growth since those early years.


Poster from Annual ReportWelcoming participants at the AGM, WWSOSA chairperson Rev Phumzile Mabizela emphasised the activism role of the coalition and how much is being done with limited resources. 

The coordinator, Daniela Gennrich highlighted the activities of the year under report – 1 August 2019 to 31 July 2019. The printed annual report was again in the form of a poster with the report on the back. This is so that members can put up the poster on the walls and remember the activities of the coalition throughout the year.

Coalition treasurer, Mr Simon Read, presented the financial report and emphasised the good governance that resulted in a clear audit.

The financial statement as well as a PDF version of the annual report is available for download from this page.

There was also an opportunity for election of the management committee members. Members whose term is not complete are Phumzile Mabizela (Chairperson), Amy Benn, Simon Read (Treasurer) and Esperance Maramuke (Survivor Representative). The following ManCom members were elected for a second term: Bafana Khumalo, Lyn van Rooyen and Nompilo Gcwensa (Survivor Representative). Also elected was Saydoon Nisa Sayed and Patricia Sibanyoni. Those present accepted a proposal to co-opt Xana McCauley, Vernon Hammond and Ntwenhle Majozi.

The Conference

A number of painful and visible cases of sexual and gender-based violence over the last two years has led to outrage and protests throughout South Africa.

In November 2018, President Ramaphosa established a Steering Committee, which is currently finalising a National Strategic Plan to end Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. The first draft of this NSP mentions the faith sector only once, and then in relation to its negative contributions to the problem. 

Churches and other faith communities have begun to address SGBV and develop programmes to respond to this crisis. However, there is little cooperation between them, and  a need for increased collaborative learning opportunities. Faith communities to speak and act decisively, not only to prevent acts of violence but also to respond to survivor needs without judgement and with compassion.

The aim of this 1- day Conference was to find common ground, understand what the NSP is calling us to do, and plan ways to be more united and impactful in responding. 

SESSION 1: Engaging with a Southern African Interfaith Policy Brief on Gender-Based Violence: “We can no longer be silent as we are called to uphold human dignity for all creation”: Faith Communities Respond to Gender-Based Violence
SESSION 2: The National Gender-Based Violence & Femicide Strategic Plan 2020 – 2030: “Healing, Safety, Freedom & Equality in our lifetime”

There were many spirited discussion and a strong commitment to further collaboration.

A report of the day can be found here.

Even at the end of a long and full day, there were still many participants eager to interact and pose for a photo!

 Photo credit: Caitlin Martin