The COVID-19 pandemic is a double-edged sword to women, children, and old people in Africa and worldwide. Many countries are seeing exponential increase in domestic violence cases across all classes and races regardless of color, creed, or station in life.

Phola a non-profit organisation registered with Department of Social Development in South Africa provides mental health services which are culturally sensitive and empower people to envision a different life and step into possibilities for their future.

It has several programmes dealing with mental health challenges either stress or trauma related. The programmes target individuals, communities, and families in difficulties.

One of Phola’s tools is the Tree of Life Methodology which instils confidence, wellbeing, and sense of purpose in life and restoration of resilience even during COVID-19 pandemic. It makes people move beyond their pain and see light despite difficulties that they have faced. COVID-19 has brought deprivation, isolation, emotional loss, trauma, stress, depression, and other psychosocial challenges like domestic violence.

Domestic violence involves violence against children, parents, or elderly. It takes several forms including physical, verbal, economic, emotional, and sexual abuse, which can be subtle or coercive.

Recently the head of United Nations Antonio Guterres appealed for ‘peace at home’ as he described a horrifying global surge in domestic violence’ against women linked to government-imposed lockdowns, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After making repeated calls for ceasefires in conflict around the world, Antonio Guterres pointed out that violence is not confined to the battlefield.

For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest which is in their own homes.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, United Nations had warned that a third of women around the world experienced some form of violence in their lives.

Now as lockdowns are imposed in many countries restricting movement, added to the social and economic stresses brought by the crisis, the UN says the number of women and girls facing abuse has increased in almost all countries.

‘Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world. I urge all governments to put women safety first as they respond to the pandemic’ Antonio Guterres added.

The UN chief noted that as resources became stretched to deal with coronavirus, services for victims of violence were reduced.

‘I urge all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.’ Guterres said.

In South Africa gender violence complaints alarmingly hit 87000 during the first three weeks of lockdown, a cop was arrested for raping wife. The Minister of Police Bheki Cele said that police had been inundated with complaints about violence during the ongoing lockdown.

Amid agony and despair a window of opportunity exist for the most vulnerable and traumatized communities. Phola organisation provides timely intervention and safety space in mitigation against COVID-19 effects and other societal challenges mainly faced by women, children, elderly and indigent.

The Tree of Life Methodology was developed by Educational and Narrative Therapist Ncazelo Mlilo in 2006 to respond to emotional and psychological pain experienced by different communities and individuals including women enduring domestic violence especially now under the strain of COVID-19, isolation and indefinite lockdowns.

For more information on Phola organisation please go through our website.

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