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COVID-19: “Sacrificed” to the “Street of Joy”

My name is “Sacrificed”. I’m a barmaid. Following the instructions, I wear a protective mask and a pair of gloves given to us by our manager. I think I’m very protected: but is that true?

Image credit: WILPF
Armelle Tsafack
27 August 2020

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My name is “Sacrificed”. I’m a barmaid. Following the instructions, I wear a protective mask and a pair of gloves given to us by our manager. I think I’m very protected; ooh no!

Today is Friday, 1 May, 2020. I’m serving an iced beer to my first customer, X. He has COVID-19, but doesn’t know it, and neither do I. A group of three comes in, then settles at a section of the bar. The section is designed to seat four people. I approach them to first of all remind them to follow the prescribed distancing measures. They retort, “How much space does your bar even have to keep us one metre away from each other?! In that case, you will barely have 20 customers at a time.” I apologize and reconsider. I suddenly remember that for the past month and a half, I haven’t had a salary; everyone knows why.

I take their order, and wearing my protective gloves, I go to the counter. My colleague at the counter grabs the paper containing the trio’s order and the money I hand her. She prepares the order for me. I return to the table of three to serve them. No sooner have I finished than customer X asks me for a second beer, “ice cold”. I go to serve it to him, at the same time, removing the previous bottle with the Coronavirus germs on it. But at that point, no one knows that.

Another group of customers comes in. I serve as I go along. I clear and serve at the same time. I’m happy, because I’ll finally get my salary at the end of May, not counting tips of at least 2500 FCFA every evening, like I used to get before the restrictive measure ordering the closure of drinking establishments by 6 p.m. at the latest was put in to place.

Unfortunately, what I still hadn’t figured out until that moment, was that by taking away customer X’s first bottle, and despite wearing gloves, I unconsciously carried the germs of the COVID-19 and again unknowingly spread it to all the customers. Unbeknownst to them, all of them are practically trading their lives, the lives of their different families and entourage, for the price of a beer!

After having consumed for some; 2, 3, or 4 drinks, and for others, crates of alcoholic drinks, the comings and goings to the toilets of the bar begin. We are a so-called “VIP” bar: the toilets have a door, a bowl and a flush system. However, the tap has been out of order for the past 6 months. Everyone goes in and out. All the customers use the same door handle and the same flush.

I almost forgot: to drink, you have to take off the mask. The DJ plays lively music; the atmosphere is at its peak because today, everyone is celebrating International Labour Day. One by one, customers get up and invade the small spaces between the tables to let their bodies flow with the rhythm of the music. The clients are ecstatic and I can see them dancing in the tiny spaces between the little tables. “We’ve come a long way. Woohoo, it’s over! “, some are saying. An illusion of recaptured happiness.

It’s two o’clock in the morning when the last customer leaves the bar. I can go home, with the joy of being able to share the fruits of a rich evening’s work. I’m over the moon, I’ve “topped” my 3,700 FCFA tip. The wait was long, but patience has paid off, I tell myself. But I don’t know what lies ahead of me over the next few days, as well as of many others who were at the bar that festive evening of 1 May 2020. Will my 30,000 FCFA from my salary with my miserable tips be enough to take care of me if I am infected and get sick? I just happen to think that I could be infected. Ahh!!! Why me?! That would be really bad luck! I even put on my mask and my gloves. Besides, I have to live, and feed my family, and being treated for COVID-19 is free. But as we say in Cameroon, “32 giga is equivalent to 500 giga”. The much-vaunted “free treatment” might actually mean hundreds of thousands to spend, as several Coronavirus patients have testified. It would be better to forget that hypothesis! I need to rest, because tomorrow I have another day of work ahead of me. God is watching over me and he’s watching over everyone who was at the bar tonight. And yet…

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Armelle Tsafack

Armelle Tsafack is the Security Policy Officer and Disarmament Coordinator for WILPF Cameroon.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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