The Impact of Covid-19 on the Deaf Community

The Sign Language word for COVID-19 mimics the shape of the virus that has penetrated global consciousness over the last few months. The sign, an open hand over a fist, is reminiscent of the circular shell and protruding spikes, or coronas, the virus is known for. COVID-19 is sweeping the globe and affecting our lives and routines. The Deaf community is being affected in ways we might not realize.

Lack of Access to Information

Hearing people get incidental knowledge from the television, radio, or conversation snippets. The challenge in the deaf community is with their access to information. It’s already bad enough with trying to make sure that everybody gets all the right information, because there’s so much misinformation put out there.

In a time where Sign Language Interpreters are seen standing next to various ministers and leaders as they provide updates on how the government is fighting this virus, many Deaf still lack access to vital information about the coronavirus. Videos about the political ramifications of this virus or the impact it is having on the economy are non-existent.

Most Deaf can read, but for most of them English is their second or third language. Additionally, due to the highly collective nature of the Deaf community, most Deaf prefer to process information in groups.  Group processing provides individuals with the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their opinions until they come to a complete understanding of the topic.

 Social Distancing has a Massive Impact

90% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents who often do not know Sign Language, so they are the only minority group to be born to parents not of their minority. Now that schools for the Deaf and many events have been cancelled, the Deaf are experiencing a lack of socialization with other members of their own minority. Many deaf learners are now being “home-schooled” by parents who cannot fluently communicate with them in their own language.

The Deaf who are in old aged homes are worst affected as most of the other inhabitants cannot communicate with them. They are not allowed to visit or receive visitors and often do not have the technology / know-how on connecting with loved ones on the outside.

Face-to-face communication is vital to the Deaf community. Zoom calls can be really tiring because when a deaf person is on a video call, they cannot look away from the screen for an instant. If the video freezes it is easy to lose track of what is being said. Using your eyes that intensively for a long period is very tough and tiring.

Deaf often depend on the Deaf community for their socialization and sense of belonging. For them the Deaf community often takes precedence over their birth family. They feel more connected and more at home with that family because they share a culture and a language. I believe that with the movement from Level 3 to Level 2 of the lockdown most Deaf will visit their Deaf friends first.

Social Challenges

 Gender-based violence and depression have increased. Stress levels soar as job losses and consequent financial crises are on the rise. There is an enormous need for personal counselling, and we are inundated with requests to assist the Deaf in crises. DEAF Friendly is known to assist the Deaf.  Our average request rate over the last few years was 3 requests daily. It has now increased to an average of 16 per day! The Deaf are in desperate need of assistance in all spheres of life.

 Being Part of the Solution

In any form of crisis or trauma, people communicate best in their ‘mother tongue’ and therefore we are making sure that information is available in Sign Language. DEAF Friendly assistance now include:

  • Summaries of the Presidential addresses to the nation.
  • “Is it true?” service. The Deaf are invited to send rumours or news snippets to us. We will then research whether that is true or false. This seems to be specifically helpful when it comes to rules in the workplace and grants that are being announced.
  • The Deaf are prepared for a hospital visit.We direct them to take communication supplies such as pen and paper, a small whiteboard or a smartphone to the hospital, as well as medical placards describing their disability and explaining how they can communicate with providers.
  • In principle we help families with Deafness with R250.00 per week.
  • Where and when food parcels are available, we ensure that the Deaf get their share.
  • Where applicable, assistance is given in applying for grants.

Funding to provide crucial resources have taken a hit, but we do our utmost to serve and assist.  Salaries have been cut by 25% and savings, specifically from travel cuts, are passed on to those in distress.

Church Life

Most congregations for the Deaf are relatively small and therefore Sunday sermons are now continuing at most of our ministry partners. Church has become an absolute weekly highlight for some whilst others are simply too afraid to go out and socialize. Tithing and offerings have more than halved since March 2020.

Please Pray with Us

Pray that the Deaf will know God is with them through this crisis.  Pray that they may find opportunities to socialize and use their heart language.

Thank you for your time, prayers, and commitment.

In His Team!

Past. Dirk Venter

Deaf Friendly is a specialised AFM Ministry that aims to seek, serve and enable the Deaf with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Deaf Friendly has increased its assistance to the Deaf by eight-fold during the Covid-19 lockdown.

👉 Please inform Deaf Friendly of any Deaf in distress so that we can follow up with as much assistance as we possibly can.

Your contribution enables DEAF Friendly to perform according to our calling.

Contact Dirk Venter for further details:

Broadening our Understanding of Gender-Based Violence

In our first article on Gender-Based Violence (GBV), we responded to the recent spike in the number of incidents of the abuse and deaths of women and children in South Africa and we thereafter shared a list of actions that Pastors, other leaders and men can undertake in addressing violence against women and children, in their congregations and in surrounding communities:

We therefore felt that it was important to ensure that all of us have the same understanding of what is meant with GBV i.e. violence or abuse of Women, before we venture into articles that provide more details on the proposed actions referred to above. It should be noted GBV is a sensitive topic and that there are different forms of GBV. It is therefore important to understand the concepts and nuances, which is the purpose of this article.

The World Health Organisation’s Key Facts on Violence Against Women

• Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights.
• Global estimates published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
• Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime.
• Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner.
• Violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health, and may increase the risk of acquiring HIV in some settings.
• Some of the contributing factors that make it more likely for men to become perpetrators of violence include having low education, a history of being abused as a child, exposure to domestic violence, harmful use of alcohol, unequal gender norms including attitudes accepting of violence, and a sense of entitlement over women.
• Similarly, some of the contributing factors that make it more likely for women to experience intimate partner violence is if they have low education, exposure to mothers being abused by a partner, abuse during childhood, attitudes of accepting violence, male privilege, and women’s subordinate status.
• There is evidence that advocacy and empowerment counselling interventions, as well as home visitation are promising in preventing or reducing intimate partner violence against women.
• Situations of conflict, post conflict and displacement may exacerbate existing violence, such as by intimate partners, as well as and non-partner sexual violence, and may also lead to new forms of violence against women.

Understanding The Various Concepts Related To Violence Against Women

Violence against women is a persistent and universal problem occurring in every culture and social group. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been physically assaulted, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime – most often by someone she knows, including a member of her own family, an employer or a co-worker.

Violence against Women. The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Gender-Based Violence. Though most documents use the terms Violence against Women and GBV interchangeably, the following points and definition suggest a slight difference:

Gender-based violence is not exclusively a woman’s concern. It is both a cause and a consequence of gender perceptions. GBV can be broadly defined as “the general term used to capture violence that occurs as a result of the normative role expectations associated with each gender, along with the unequal power relationships between genders, within the context of a specific society.”

It should be noted that in some cultures GBV is violence against women based on women’s subordinate status in society. It includes any act or threat made by men or male dominated institutions that inflict physical, sexual, or psychological harm on a woman or girl because of their gender. In most cultures, traditional beliefs, norms and social institutions legitimise and therefore perpetuate violence against women.

So whilst it is true that some types of violence against women (and men) are perpetrated by women, the majority of GBV perpetrators are men.

Domestic Violence. Domestic abuse is defined as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, physical violence or threats of violence, including sexual violence, assault and or harassment, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. Domestic Violence is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). IPV refers to behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours.

Forms of Gender-Based Violence (GBV)
The following forms of GBV are the more commonly known:

Physical abuse/violence

Physical abuse can happen in dating or married relationships, but it can also happen outside a relationship. Physical abuse is any physical force that injures the victim or places the victim in danger physically. Physical abuse can include hitting, shaking, burning, choking, hair-pulling, slapping, kicking, and any type of harm with a weapon e.g. a knife, another sharp instruments or a gun. It can also include threats to harm their spouses/partners and or children, family pets, or other family members. Physical abuse can also include restraining a spouse/partner against their will, by tying them up or locking them in a space.

Emotional or Psychological abuse

Emotional violence often involves verbal abuse, name calling and belittling of the other and which causes psychological harm to the individual. It entails acts of embarrassment, humiliation and disrespect. These acts affect one’s sense of self, self-esteem and self-confidence. Michele Borboa says emotional abusers are often “silent monsters” that fake affection while knowing precisely how to manipulate situations, hurt and humiliate their victims and do whatever it takes to stay in control of the situation and their victims.

Husbands/Partners are guilty of emotional abuse when they:
• Manipulate their partner’s emotions on a psychological level,
• Constantly criticizes their partners,
• Play “mind” games,
• Make her feel bad about herself e.g. through degrading, belittling and or negative comments,
• Makes her think she is crazy,
• Makes their partner feel guilty, and
• Humiliates their partners.

Economic abuse

Economic abuse includes the unreasonable deprivation of economic or financial resources to which the victim is entitled or requires out of necessity, including mortgage bond repayments or rent. It essentially traps a person into remaining in a marriage or relationship from which escape becomes impossible. Economic violence can take the form of, for example, property damage, restricting access to financial resources, education or the labour market, or not complying with economic responsibilities, such as alimony.

This includes control of a partner’s assets, access to money and other economic resources. The husband/male partner may be reluctant for his wife/female partner to work or may manage and abuse her compensation for work done.

Sexual violence
Sexual Violence is “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, or other act directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting. It includes rape, defined as the physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part or object.”

This is the most common form of GBV and may involve rape, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and trafficking for sexual purposes.


Femicide is the killing of a female, or perceived female person on the basis of gender identity, whether committed within the domestic relationship, interpersonal relationship, or by another person or whether perpetrated or tolerated by the State or its agents, and private sources.

(This definition was agreed on 4 October 2017 by the Committee that dealt with Intimate Femicide under the auspices of the then Department of Justice and Constitutional Development – DOJCD)

In summary, this is characterised by the murder of a female partner by an intimate male partner and is considered to be the most extreme outcome of GBV.

Indirect (structural) violence
Structural violence is “where violence is built into structures, appearing as unequal power relations and, consequently, as unequal opportunities”. Structural violence exists when certain groups, classes, genders or nationalities have privileged access to goods, resources and opportunities over others, and when this unequal advantage is built into the social, political and economic systems that govern their lives.”

In closing we would like to remind Pastors, other church leaders and men that this article is the second in a series of articles on “What Pastors, other Church Leaders and men can do in the fight against GBV and Child Abuse”. The next article will be in a similar vein, however the focus will be on improving your understanding of Child Abuse with the view of assisting you to deal with this societal scourge. I would like to encourage you to raise questions and share your stories and practices so that we can learn from one another.

Ashley Theron
Acting CEO
AFM Welfare

centrecare, Australia
DOJCD, SA 2017
Dept of Justice, SA 2018
EIGE Europe
Legal Centre 2012
Lisa Vetten 2003
Ludsin &Vetten 2005
Matthews 2010
Michelle Barboa
Office of Human’s Health, U.S.
saferspaces SA 2020
Sigworth 2009
Swazi Malinga 2016
Tears Foundation, SA
Tshwararanang Legal Centre 2012
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Women’s Aid (UK)

Addressing Violence Against- and Abuse of Women and Children – The role of Pastors, other Church Leaders and Men

We hear of violent deaths of women and children almost daily and we all wonder what kind of person can do such evil and heinous acts. It is mostly men who are the perpetrators and to compound the problem, many of them are related to their victims. They were not born monsters as they are someone’s son, brother, husband, father, friend, employee, uncle or cousin.

Some of them went to Sunday School, Youth meetings and/or attended Church. Yet they turned out to become violators, abusers, murderers, and the question is not only what went wrong in their lives, it is also why we are allowing this to happen. Part of the answer lies in the fact that most of us look the other way and don’t want to take action as we hope the problem will go away and there are others that might not know what to do.

We do not like confronting or reporting abuse and violations when we see it happening in our families, our neighbourhood and even in our churches. Edmund Burke hit the nail on the head when he said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

We are not saying this because we are expecting Pastors and other church leaders to play the role of Police Officers, Teachers, Social Workers or Lawyers, but we are expecting them to know what to do; what is within their area of responsibility; which cases should be reported and to whom; and also knowing when and how to refer victims of abuse to the correct resources or authorities.

I realise there is a need for a toolkit for Pastors and other church leaders to provide them with information (including the policy and legal framework) on violence against- and abuse of women and children and also practical guidelines that will spell out what to do when they are confronted with this major challenge in their congregations and communities they serve.

However, I want to share, using my own experience and drawing on research and experience from other NPOs and agencies, a few things that we as leaders in our church can do or undertake to tackle the scourge of violence against women and children.

1. Self-reflection and education

 Confront yourself/your ideas.
 Educate yourself on the roots of violence.
 Confront stereotyping men’s and women’s roles.
 Become aware of resources for girls and women.
 Be media literate and critical and learn to use social media effectively.
 Remember violence is a choice.

2. Become aware of harmful cultures and practices

 Raise awareness of the dangers of harmful traditions.
 Challenge and stop rape culture.
 Recognise the role of gender in violence.
 Confront, interrupt sexist/homophobic and transphobic language.

2. Involving, consulting and engaging others

 Engage and share vital information with the assembly and community.
 Engage respected community elders and leaders in the fight against violence.
 Have a discussion with others about ending violence and to become a mentor.
 Engage boys and young men to become agents of change.
 Help boys and young men understand consent.
 Call gender violence what it is – it is not bullying or part of a cultural thing.

3. Developing and implementing an action plan

 Create a conducive atmosphere.
 Create safe spaces to discuss gender violence.
 Be supportive.
 Stop victim blaming – girls and women often blame themselves.
 Listen to girls’ experiences of violence – and their solutions.

4. Taking action

 Confront and Stop abuse
 Stop street harassment
 Tackle violence of girls in schools
 Report abuse and photos that exploit girls and young women

Ashley Theron (Acting CEO of AFM Welfare)

Battered Women’s Support Services
Plan International

Opportunities in a Time of Crisis (30 June 2020)

The Bible teaches us that it does not help much if we are weak in time of crisis. In fact, Solomon says that to act with weakness in a crisis is a sign of having very little strength indeed. A crisis is identifiable by some or all of the following components – threat, surprise, urgency and uncertainty. The pandemic brought on us by the novel coronavirus and the disease called Covid-19 can indeed be described as a crisis of catastrophic proportions containing all the above components. It not only challenged the way of life as we knew it, but also our ability to see opportunities in a time of crisis.

Life as we knew it

At the outset it must be said that the church is a place where we find comfort in the presence of the Lord and the believers, the place where our weary souls are restored, our hopes renewed and where we are reminded of 1 Peter 1:7 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ”.

We believers are encouraged in the book of Hebrews not to neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but are supposed to encourage one another to meet regularly in the house of the Lord, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near! Going to Church on Sundays and even in the week, have been viewed by believers as their Christian duty. The fellowship and gathering of the saints are no small matter to God’s children and many of us have become used to and comfortable with the way the church functions. In doing so we limited God to fit into our existing paradigms.

Locked down and locked out

When the South African nation went into total lockdown at midnight on 26 March 2020, no one could remain in any zone of life as we knew it. Everyone was unceremoniously evicted from what we were used to and almost overnight the entire world became a strange place. There came an abrupt end to all the things we took for granted. Going to the gym, the hairdresser, and the mall. Popping out for a takeaway meal or going to sit down at your favourite restaurant. Visiting friends and family, attending parties and funerals, even going to church, no more life as we knew it.

 The impact on the church

The impact on the local church was felt in a number of ways. As already mentioned, there was the loss of communal worship and fellowship. There was the challenge of adapting to new and strange ways of “doing church”. Not everybody warmed up to receiving sermons via WhatsApp and the other social networks. Besides, not everybody could afford the cost of airtime and data. No more opportunity to take the Lord’s tithe to His own storehouse on Sundays. And how many would take the trouble to tithe in “strange new ways?”. The result – the income of the church was also impacted negatively.

A biblical lesson

There is a story in the book of Jeremiah 29:4-7 about those who were carried into Babylonian exile. The exiles in Babylon were also overcome by all the elements of a crisis. They also hoped and prayed that the crisis would be over soon. That they will return home quickly. But God advised them differently. Take the longer view, they were told – “Work towards the peace and prosperity of the city where you are”. God gave them instructions to plant their own gardens and live from the produce thereof. To look to the future. The efforts of the present always have an impact on the future. Doing nothing is not an option. But what can be done? How can we built today to secure a sustainable future?

Community involvement and socio-economic opportunities 

Pastors and congregations could consider broadening their impact on their surrounding communities by starting socio-economic programs that could create income generating and/or job creation opportunities. Such programs could include Child and Youth Care Centers and Foster Homes, drop-in centers for children, care and support of older persons in institutions and communities, care and support of persons with disabilities, gender-based violence/domestic violence support services and shelters, early childhood development centers, literacy programs, substance abuse institutions and community based programs, poverty alleviation and job creation.

To assist AFM Assemblies the AFM Welfare has extensive experience and tools to provide technical support with the initiating, developing, and providing of programs and projects (especially where funding is required from the Department of Social Development and other sources). The assistance would include guidance on the policy and legal framework, understanding the requirements and the registration process related to both as an NPO (Non-Profit Organization) and as a designated service. Consideration should also be given to partnering with existing NPO’s.


When Moses stood in front of the Red Sea and the armies of Egypt was behind him, the Lord asked him “What do you have in your hand”. I pray that God will provide creative insight and wisdom on how to apply what He has placed in our hands, to meet the demands we face today and in the future.

Past. B. Petersen (General Treasurer of the AFM of SA)