25 November 2013

On Monday 25th November, Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse together with the Gender Consortium launched the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women popularly known as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence (GBV) at Ludzeludze Inkhundla.  The launch was attended by Manzini Regional Administrator Prince Gcokoma; Ludzidzini Governor Timothy Velabo Mtetwa; former Ludzeludze Member of Parliament and ex-SWAGAA Director, Nonhlanhla Dlamini; SWAGAA’s Director Cebile Manzini-Henwood; Gender Coordinator in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office Jane Mkhonta; UNFPA Assistant Representative Majorie Mavuso; Chiefs from surrounding communities; members of the Gender Consortium; and community members.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign was established by participants of the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute (WGLI) in 1991 as a way to symbolically link November 25th (International Day Against Violence Against Women) and December 10th (International Human Rights Day) and to raise awareness of gender-based violence as a human rights issue.

In Swaziland, according to the first survey of its kind released in 2007, one in every three female Swazi has experienced some form of sexual violence before turning 18.  The figure rises to two out of three in the 18 to 24 age range.  The social, economic and cultural practices create, enforce and perpetuate legalized gender inequalities and discrimination in all aspects of the Swazi women’s lives; further compounding the HIV and AIDS. 

Each year the 16 Days of Activism has provided a rallying point for the government, NGOs, and other stakeholders in the country to mount events aimed at raising awareness, influencing behavior change and securing high level of political commitment to end violence against women.  The 2013 theme is “From peace in the home to peace in the world: let’s end all forms of Gender Based Violence”.

The objectives of the 2013 campaign are to celebrate the strength and achievements of women; to call for greater accountability and political commitment from states to prevent and punish all forms of violence against women, in practice not just in words; to increase awareness of the impact of violence against women; to raise awareness amongst traditional leaders, community forerunners, community headmen, rural health motivators and communities on the Gender Based Violence discourse and why their role is critical in calling for an end to Gender Based Violence; and to raise the awareness of media practitioners on sensitive reporting to GBV and the role they can play to end GBV. 

Speaking at the launch, Prince Gcokoma said he was surprised by some chiefs who still frown at women who want to acquire a piece of Swazi Nation Land without a husband. He said men and women have equal opportunities to acquire land, something that is important if we are to develop as a nation 

UNFPA Assistant Representative Majorie Mavuso said, “Boys and men have a hand in abusing girls and women.  As a result, the country needs to do something towards protecting children from harmful practices, including child and forced marriages”.  She said in all contexts, the UN would continue to engage men and boys to help change social and cultural norms so that gender equality was upheld. 

Former Member of Parliament, Mrs. Nonhlanhla Dlamini stated that “Violence is like weather and has circles - It rains anytime and after the rain there is sunshine and everything seems beautiful as if it will never rain again”.  She said after a man beats his spouse, he becomes the nicest person on earth such that she is tempted not to report the matter, yet a few weeks later, he beats her again.  She pleaded with women to report violence against them.