The Nhlangano AIDS Training and Information and Counselling Centre (NATICC) partnered with the University of Eswatini (UNESWA) and launched the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV). The event was held at UNESWA on the 23rd day of November 2018. The event was graced by the presence of the United States of America Ambassador to Eswatini Ms Lisa J. Peterson who delivered the keynote address on the day, UNESWA Vice Chancellor Professor Justice Thwala, NATICC Executive Director Mr Sisekelo Nzima, The Director in the department of Gender and Family Affairs in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office Ms Jane Mkhonta-Simelane, and other dignitaries. The local theme for this year’s campaign is ORANGE ESWATINI: # HearMeToo. This is a customized theme that was taken from the international theme ORANGE THE WORLD: #HearMeToo.
The 16 days of Activism against GBV is an international campaign that takes place each year. It commences on 25 November, The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day. It was originated by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. It is used as an organizing strategy by individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.
The event was opened by a welcoming address from the UNESWA Vice Chancellor Professor Thwala who spoke candidly about the scourge of GBV in Eswatini which has reached pandemic proportions. The Vice Chancellor noted with concern that GBV in Eswatini is still shrouded in a culture of silence and family secrets.
A majority of students in this institution are girls and hence the significance of hosting the launch of this noble campaign here ’he said. He pointed out that Violence Against Children (VAC) and Violence Against Women (VAM) are endemic problems that are not only affecting families but also students in institutions of higher learning. The Vice Chancellor emphasized the need for the Eswatini Populace to familiarize themselves with the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence (SODV) Act of 2018. He further pledged UNESWA’s continued support for this noble course.
The USA Ambassador to Eswatini Ms. Lisa Peterson also weighed in on the disturbing rate of GBV in our country.
‘We should use the 16 days to galvanize action to end GBV in the country’ she said. She also noted with concern that GBV was an international problem that is affecting even first world countries like the USA. She further informed the gathering that the theme for this campaign in the USA was END GBV IN THE WORLD OF WORK. She noted with great concern that GBV affects both employers and employees in the world of work. ‘GBV results in high rates of employee absenteeism which adversely affects production and results in the high use of staff medical aid’. The Ambassador also highlighted the positive changes in Eswatini in the fight against GBV in 2018. One major highlight for the country was the enactment of the SODV Bill into a law. ‘Change is possible when politicians, civil society and other players join efforts in the pursuit of justice in society’ she noted.
The Ambassador also observed that the judiciary in the Kingdom of Eswatini has swung into action and started implementing the SODV Act of 2018. She said paying attention to GBV must not end after the 16 days of activism but it should continue so that it is completely eliminated in our society.
NATICC Executive Director Sisekelo Nzima also implored UNESWA students to be real agents of change in the fight against GBV. He said it was vital for students to understand the calling that they are undertaking at the institution as their profession was not only about earning a salary but providing an essential service to the people of this country. He also noted with concern that GBV spares nobody in our society and there is need for urgency in eradicating this pandemic which is fully entrenched in our patriarchal society. The launch of the campaign was concluded with a panel discussion where students were given an opportunity to engage a group of panelists from various sectors in a discussion. The panelists consisted of experts from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Department of Social Welfare, DCS, UNESWA Social Work Services Department, and UNESWA student reps.
Most issues that emerged during the panel discussions centered on issues of the consistent enforcement of existing pieces of legislation in the country. A majority of students seemed incensed by an on-going case of a prominent figure within the institution who is alleged to have drugged and raped a student recently. The students feel like the country’s law enforcement agencies are dragging their feet in enforcing the necessary legislations.
The students indicated that sexual abuse within the campus was the most common form of abuse, followed by physical abuse, technologically driven violence against students, and friend zoning.
On another note the Director of Social Work Services Mr Clement Dlamini also made an interesting observation about the church when it comes to dealing with issues of GBV. Dlamini who is also a Pastor noted with concern that the church lacks decisiveness when it comes to dealing with issues of abuse. Upon receipt of a complaint from a congregant they dilly-dally with the matter which eventually leads to impunity for offenders.
To see more action on the day click here.