Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
FIFA has joined forces with the African Union, World Health Organisation and Caf to jointly fight domestic violence by launching the #SafeHome campaign across the African continent.

In a Press release, Fifa said the initiative is designed to support women and child victims of domestic violence, particularly as stay-at-home measures in response to Covid-19 have put them at greater risk.

The initiative is supported by a number of African football stars, who include Abel Xavier, Emmanuel Amuneke, Sarah Essam, Khalilou Fadiga, Geremi, Rabah Madjer, Lúcia Moçambique, Asisat Oshoala and Clémentine Touré, who convey a series of key messages to the public.

The African Union-Fifa-Caf Memorandum of Understanding, which was concluded in February 2019, covers joint campaigns on topics of mutual interest and the promotion of gender equality, as a key principle.

Other areas of collaboration include education through football, sports integrity and safety and security at football matches.

“I am glad that today we can launch this campaign on the important topic of domestic violence, which is significantly exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdown conditions and movement restrictions, together with our partners, the African Union, WHO and Caf. It is our duty to leverage the immense popularity of football in Africa to raise awareness on this societal challenge with a very clear message: violence has no place in homes, just as it has no place in football,” said Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Amira Elfadil said the AU was resolute and committed to the protection of women and girls, adding that it recognises and aligns itself with Fifa, Caf and WHO on efforts aimed at preventing abuse and domestic-based violence through collaborative programming that links reconstruction, access to the continuum of service, addressing the underlying social norms and harmful practices that continue to perpetuate gender-based violence and inequality, as well as community awareness and empowerment.

“We align ourselves to leverage the popular appeal of football to raise awareness against domestic violence, particularly as stay-at-home measures in response to Covid-19 are in place,” he said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said violence against women was a major threat to women and children’s health.

“It is also a grave violation of human rights and it must end now. WHO is proud to stand with Fifa, the African Union and Caf to launch this campaign across Africa to bring attention to this critical issue. We are committed to a world where women live free from violence and discrimination,” said Ghebreyesus.

Caf president Ahmad Ahmad said whether at home or on the pitch, everyone was entitled to respect and safety. Domestic, physical or moral violence, especially against women and children must be condemned, said the African football boss.

“Do not be afraid or ashamed to seek help if you are a victim of violence in your own home. If you are a witness to violence, intervene or get help, but do not stay silent: remaining silent is to be guilty of complicity. Never forget that everyone has a right to live in safety in their own home,” Ahmad said.

The #SafeHome campaign is part of a wider global initiative to raise awareness on this critical issue. Fifa called on member associations to actively publish details of national or local helplines and support services that can help victims and anyone who feels they are at risk of domestic violence in their locality.

According to statistics, almost one in three women worldwide experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by someone else in their lifetime.

In a majority of cases, that violence is committed by a partner in their home.

Up to 38 percent of all murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.

It is also estimated that one billion children aged between two and 17 years (or half the world’s children) have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence or neglect in the past year.

There are many reasons why people perpetrate domestic violence, including gender inequality and social norms that condone violence, childhood experiences of abuse or exposure to violence and coercive control growing up. Harmful use of alcohol can also trigger violence.

Stressful situations, such as those being experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic and economic instability, exacerbate the risk.

Moreover, the current distancing measures in place in many countries make it harder for women and children to reach out to family, friends and health workers, who could otherwise provide support and protection.