Disability in Namibia: December 2020 Workshop

Join us at a ‘Disability in Namibia’ virtual workshop on 3rd and 4th December 2020.

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus situation, we had to postpone our planned workshops in April and July 2020, which were due to bring together academics, activists, and representatives from the Government of the Republic of Namibia (GRN) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN). We continue to adjust our project activities to accommodate the ‘new normal’ in which we all find ourselves. We have therefore decided to run a 2-day virtual workshop in December 2020, which will deliver – albeit in a different format – the opportunities for networking and the sharing of ideas that we had envisaged for April and July. We therefore invite you to join us on 3rd and 4th December 2020 at a Zoom event hosted by the University of Exeter.

This virtual workshop will be free to attend and offers the chance to hear from disability activists in Namibia, scholars from Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the UK, as well as disability stakeholders working in governmental, legal, and development settings. A variety of interactive sessions will give participants the chance to consider disability issues from multiple perspectives and multiple geographical contexts, and to add their voices to the conversation.

Further details will be available here soon.

If you would like to attend the workshop, or would like to get in touch with the project team, please email Dr Helen John: H.C.John@exeter.ac.uk

Professor Louise Lawrence Lecture on ‘Disability in Namibia’

Our Project Leader, Professor Louise Lawrence, will be delivering a lecture on the Disability in Namibia project on Tuesday 13th October at 16:30 (GMT) as part of a new lecture series on the role of humanities in contemporary global crises. This is a free event, open to all. Do sign up and find out more about the project.

Visit the University of Exeter website for more details and to sign up to this free event:


The details below are taken from the website:

Professor Louise Lawrence, from the University of Exeter, will discuss “Compassionate Research and Curricula? The Bible, Disability, and Cognitive [In-] Justice”. Showcasing her research project in Namibia, Professor Lawrence will speak about how the academy, and its research and teaching, has been shaped by certain (privileged) perspectives and (able) bodies, and how these can be challenged and reimagined more inclusively.

A new University of Exeter lecture series will examine the role of humanities experts in tackling global crises, including health, the climate emergency and racial injustice.

The online events, free and open to the public, will also showcase discussions on how humanities research can help universities better conduct their global activities and be agents of positive change.

Academics from around the world will bring their varied disciplinary perspectives to modern global events: from the ‘long view’ of history, to compassion-based understanding of human needs, to promoting better intercultural understanding. Amidst so much upheaval, universities can play a leading role in the world but they also need to reckon honestly with some of their imperfections. This forum provides a creative space for such a reappraisal.

Professor Melissa Percival, Associate Dean Global for the College of Humanities, who is organising the events, said: “We are looking forward to hearing from humanities experts who are leaders in their fields about how their disciplines are playing a role in community-building, strategy, partnership and engagement.

“These should be fascinating and important discussions which will help us all reflect on the extraordinary events of this year, and the role of the humanities now and in the future.”

Sessions are hosted by the University of Exeter’s Institute for Cultural Enquiry and will be held on Zoom.

Sign up for the events at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/global-universities-global-challenges-perspectives-from-the-humanities-tickets-123201112845

Dr Charlene van der Walt lecture at Bridging Gaps symposium

(Associate Professor of Gender and Religion) Dr Charlene van der Walt, a Disability in Namibia project partner at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, will be delivering a lecture at the Bridging Gaps symposium (Faculty of Religion and Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). The symposium (16-17 October 2020) focuses on contextual theology and contextual Bible study across multiple continents. It promises to be a varied and fascinating series of lectures. The 2-day virtual symposium is free to attend and you can sign up by emailing bridging.gaps@vu.nl

View Dr Charlene van der Walt’s profile here:

Charlene van der Walt

Full details of the symposium are available on the Vrije Universiteit website, which gives the following information:


In 1994, the Bridging Gaps program (formerly Breuken en Bruggen or Puentos y Roturas) started. The program aimed to facilitate intercultural and ecumenical exchange among participants from the Global South, and to foster contextual theology. Through contextual Bible studies, lectures on hermeneutics, individual research, and intercontextual exchange, the participants learned how context influences one’s understanding of theology, and how context can enrich theology. 25 years later, over 250 students from 40 countries, belonging to various denominations, have participated in the program. It is time to celebrate and harvest the fruits!

The symposium aims to celebrate and share some of the outstanding contributions of former participants to the field of contextual theology. In a two-day program, lectures on theology in the context of forced migration, gender injustice, ecological crises, and economic injustices will be given by former participants and others affiliated with the program. Among the main speakers are

  • Lady Mandalika, PhD candidate in Old Testament Studies, Vrije Universiteit
  • Mary-Luz Reyes Bejarano, Professor at the Corporación Universidad Reformada in Barranquilla (Colombia)
  • de Rt. Rev Manuel Ernesto, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Nampula (Mozambique)
  • dr.Darío Barolín, executive secretary of the Latin America Alliance of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches (AIRPAL)
  • dr.Charlene van der Walt, associate professor Gender and Religion at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)

Since this is a digital gathering, we are able to welcome speakers and participants from all over the world. The schedule of the first day of the symposium is designed to include participants from time zones in the Americas, Africa and Europe. The schedule of the second day of the symposium is designed to include participants from time zones in Asia, Africa and Europe.

The symposium will take place on the 16th and 17th of October via Zoom. The Zoom invitation will be sent to all registered attendees. Please register with your name, email address and the day(s) you like to participate via bridging.gaps@vu.nl. Take a look at the full program.

The Bridging Gaps program is sponsored by Kerk in Actie, VUvereniging, Stichting Sormani Fonds, Nederlands Luthers Genootschap, Stichting Catherina Halkes Fonds, Doopsgezind Seminarium, Remonstrans Seminarium, and Baptistenseminarium.

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: https://brill.com/view/title/54150

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

Our project has been featured in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) Press

An article on our project featured in Omukwetu, the monthly newspaper published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia. Thank you to the editor, Reverend Thomas Uushona, for highlighting our work! We are looking forward to collaborating with ELCIN on foregrounding disability issues and securing the church’s help in tackling the marginalisation of people with disabilities in Namibia.

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.