“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” — Wilma Rudolph (Source: Happy Black Woman, and so the saying goes.)
The past year has been a challenge for the work of this sector, we have been dealt our fair share of losses. We have all been confronted by the challenge of COVID-19 which has impacted adversely on our work and personal lives.
Several of our staff and partners were impacted by this virus in various ways. We lost loved ones in both personal and business space. Sonke lost one member of staff who succumbed to COVID-19 and many of our staff, members of our board, partner members and their families where either infected or affected by COVID-19. Our hearts goes out to all of Sonke’s friends and families whom have been impacted by COVID-19.
Notwithstanding these challenges and the impact it has on the organisational health, general well- being of staff members and our ability to perform our work, the organisation continued to function.
We had to develop new ways of doing our work under these conditions. It does appear though that COVID-19 will be with us for much longer than anticipated and we have to contend with this reality. We need to ensure and show that our systems and functions can operate in “the new normal”.
Despite the challenge of COVID-19 and regrettably we saw a rise in gender-based violence across the globe. Many women and girls reported high incidences of gender- based violence and sexual offences. Even violence against children at the heart of the lockdowns resulting from COVID-19 soared.
In many countries systems were put in place to manage the challenge presented by COVID-19 as a health pandemic. But there was a failure to recognize that in putting up these measures there’s also a need to take care of how the Disaster management regulations during lockdowns will also cater for GBV and child safety.
To this end, we have had to facilitate measures for our staff to work remotely to conform to health protocols.
We are happy to report that most of the measures that we put in place paid dividends and bore good fruit in that we were able to continue doing the work virtually without exposing our staff, communities and partners to any risks.
As the Board we are happy to report once more that we have received an unqualified audit for our work which augurs well for the high standards that Sonke is known for.
COVID-19 has once more exposed the huge disparities that exists in the world and perpetuates gender inequality. Women once more are more impacted negatively in their lives by COVID-19.
We have been appalled by disparities in access to much needed vaccines for poorer countries in the South. As an organisation we will continue to join with civil society partners in advocacy campaigns to ensure that vaccines are available to all that need them so that we can curb this pandemic. This is the right thing to do as advised by the World Health Organization (WHO). This is the only way that the world will turn the tide against the pandemic when we work together globally.
We are grateful for the continued support by our partners and donors who were willing to continue supporting the work despite the challenges presented in the course of this year. We do not take this support for granted but appreciate it greatly because it has been a beacon of hope for many communities that we serve who are in the margins of economic development.
We remain committed as an organisation to make our own contribution to advance the cause for gender justice in our region end in the world.
We continue to contribute to the advancement of the SDGs plan 2030, the African Union agenda 2063 and the Generation Equality Program.
All these efforts will help advance the cause for gender transformation in our region and globally. This requires all of us to put shoulder to the wheel as we seek to create a better world for future generations.
In this effort we will remain vigilant to ensure that duty bearers are held accountable where they fail to live up to their commitments. But equally we will support duty bearers when they live up to expectations. We will support those efforts to ensure maximum impact at community level.
We look forward to continuing working with partners in all efforts that seek to make a change
in the world because we firmly believe that another word is possible. A world where there is no discrimination. A world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. A world when no one is left behind.
We believe that this is possible and have committed ourselves to make our own contributions on that the score.
We extend a word of gratitude to all those that continue to support our work. We thank our staff who go beyond the call of duty to ensure that they implement our strategy with passion and commitment.
I thank my fellow board members who have remained available to support the organisation beyond the call of duty.
Looking back, we can be proud of what we have achieved with minimum resources but have had the impact that we have had even under these challenging circumstances. One of the lessons we can take from this past year, is that change is inevitable but it is those who strive to adapt that are the true change makers.
Here is to adapting, changing and winning again.
Karabo van Heerden