Students at the University of Kwalzulu-Natal, have produced a powerful piece on the increase in Gender-Based Violence during the South-African COVID 19 lockdown.

GRH Cohort Video engaging GBV during COVID19 Lockdown South-Africa

The 2020 Gender and Religion Master Cohort took it upon themselves to create this short video, as they were collectively moved by the dramatic increase in Gender-Based Violence during the South African COVID19 lockdown. The video aims to create awareness of GBV in intimate spaces and also asks critical questions regarding the involvement of faith communities in the process of addressing the issue. Most profoundly the video offers a virtual community of care for those struggling due to the life-denying realities created by situations of abuse, intimidation, and violence. If you are in need of care, support, or intervention due to GBV during the Covid19 pandemic in South Africa please make use of the services offered by The Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC). The Centre operates a National, 24hr/7days-a-week Call Centre facility. The Centre operates an Emergency Line number – 0800 428 428. This is supported by a USSD, “please call me” facility: *120*7867#. A Skype Line ‘Helpme GBV’ for members of the deaf community also exists. (Add ‘Helpme GBV’ to your Skype contacts). An SMS Based Line 31531 for persons with disabilities (SMS ‘help’ to 31531) also exists. The Centre is able to refer calls directly to SAPS (10111) and field Social Workers who respond to victims of GBV.

Posted by Religion and Theology UKZN Pietermaritzburg on Monday, 8 June 2020

Network Member Profile: Helen John

In this post, we hear from one of the University of Exeter project team members, Helen John:


I arrived in Namibia from the UK in mid-March and will be here throughout our ‘Disability in Namibia’ networking project, which is now extended until the end of May 2021. I’ve been visiting Namibia since 1997 and have been doing research here for the past eight years, so I’m delighted to be back and that this project is up and running. This is an excellent opportunity for the University of Exeter to collaborate with the University of Namibia (UNAM) and to build links with universities in neighbouring countries. Before we went into Coronavirus lockdown, I was lucky enough to meet the UNAM team, and it was great to get together with our new colleagues face-to-face and to hear about each other’s interests and expertise. It’s clear that there are so many ways in which this network and our Disability in Namibia project can benefit from such diversity across all of our specialisms – health sciences, religious studies, development, economics, biblical studies, education, gender studies – the list goes on!

My focus areas in connection with this project are Contextual Bible Study and Owambo cultures in Namibia’s North-Central region. For me, that means interpreting New Testament texts with community groups in Owambo and exploring with participants the relationship between local culture and interpretations of the Bible. Particular topics that I focus on are embodiment, personhood and gender. my PhD fieldwork was also undertaken here:

I am now based in Owambo and am focusing on perceptions of disability and attitudes to disability in local culture. Having done previous research into illness and healing in this area, the move towards disability issues is a really interesting progression. It seems to me that properly understanding religious and cultural responses to disability is key to eradicating marginalisation of people living with disabilities. Later in the year, I hope to convene a rotation of community groups (women, men, children) to generate discussions on disability themes – stigma, contagion, cure, inclusion – and to gauge attitudes to disability in general as well as in its particular forms. I will also be seeking interviews with people with disabilities, disability activists and church representatives to get a sense of the wider landscape of disability in the North of the country.

I am really looking forward to meeting members of the network at our December workshop (which we hope will be an amalgamation of the July and December meetings) and to further establishing our collaborations – we are delighted to have network members already in Namibia, the UK, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Let’s hope that we can add more scholars and stakeholders to the list both within and beyond those borders.

In the meantime, stay safe and well!  Best wishes, Helen


Professor Lawrence asks ‘Which Contexts Count?’

On the 14th February 2020, Louise presented a paper at a workshop at the University of Bern in Switzerland on Contextual Readings of the Bible. Her title question ‘Which Contexts Count?’ forced her to think about how within the academy, ‘invisible’ or ‘forgotten’ contexts are often used as shorthand labels for those contexts perceived to be marked by marginalisation, oppression, limited access to power, and/or representation.

Bern - Which Contexts Count

Disability in Namibia: Project Launch!

We are really excited to initiate (courtesy of GCRF AHRC funding) this interdisciplinary collaboration between the Universities of Exeter and Namibia, the National Federation of People with Disabilities in Namibia (NFPDN) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) to explore religio-cultural narratives of embodiment and disability in Namibia. We are going to be running three workshops throughout the year that will bring together scholars of disability, religion, and culture from the UK and across Southern Africa. The first will be held in April 2020 in the capital Windhoek and will be themed on ‘Experiences of Disability’. The second will be held in June 2020 at the ELCIN head offices in the North of the country and will be on ‘Disability, Religion and Culture’. The third workshop will be held at The University of Namibia (UNAM) in December 2020 to coincide with International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3) and will be themed on ‘Challenging Disability Marginalisation in Namibia’.

The project will seek to document lived experiences of physical and mental illness in Namibia alongside church responses and develop an educational package based on biblical and local cultural resources that tackles marginalising discourses. Given its use to address social injustices in Southern Africa, Contextual Bible Study has been chosen as an appropriate methodological approach to complement disability studies in a context where 90% of the population is Christian. The network will exchange knowledge and collaborate further on four themes: (a) collating and foregrounding impoverishing experiences of disability; (b) understanding challenges and priorities from the perspective of the disabled and their advocates; (c) mapping and interrogating religious and cultural narratives of inclusion/exclusion; (d). addressing religious and cultural narratives of inclusion/exclusion in order to promote inclusivity, equality and diversity and, thereby, to maximise potential for development. Members of the network will foster Namibian-centred approaches to the promotion of equality and diversity, avoiding the pitfalls of importing Western approaches to embodied diversities.