Tag Archives: Gender-based Violence

Podcast about Gender-Based Violence in Swaziland

Listen to my interview with David Peck on his podcast, Face2Face. This was done via Skype, and luckily a huge rainstorm had just ended.

Media Training in Mambane, Swaziland

Enjoying the day with the ladies of Mambane.

This week’s highlight was a media training session I facilitated along with MISA Swaziland (Media Institute of Southern Africa) and EU Cospe (an Italian NGO that works on numerous programs with SWAGAA.

Discussing gender-based violence and news challenges with journalists from the Swaziland Observer and Times.

Six journalists came tot he MISA office in Mbabane for a round table discussion that I led on how best to cover gender-based violence stories. It was great sharing experiences and finding out about their challenges. The journalists were from the Observer and the Times. We discussed the need for confidentiality so survivors can avoid stigma, and also how to include a survivor’s voice. So often here the articles are merely court reports, which is due to the fact that these news reporters have to file at least three stories a day. That’s a lot.

We talked about ethics and policies, patriarchal attitudes in the newsroom (2 of the journos were women) and how gender-based violence stories are often churned out without much sensitivity to the parties involved. I had them put themselves in a GBV subject’s shoes, walking back into a homestead where people would talk, laugh, accuse, point fingers and ostracize them. Humanizing the subject makes for less provocative, damaging reporting. It was good food for thought.

Mambane gate. Love the cow-horn motif!

The second part of the training was to head out in a couple of vehicles to a community called Mambane on the South African/Mozambique border. One vehicle broke down, delaying one group, but luckily my vehicle made the 2-hour, gravel road trip without mishap. We were scheduled to meet a group of women at a community Gogo Centre (Gogo is the term for grandmother, and these centres are used for gatherings, teachings and various projects). The Gogo centre we visited had just received a voter registration machine. Part of EU Cospe’s mandate is to get women in more leadership positions. The rule in Swaziland is 30% of politicians should be female, but in reality the number is much lower. None of the journalists even knew what the actual figure was.

We took the journalists out because media outlets here have limited resources and seldom do Mbabane-based staff get the chance to gather grassroots level stories out in the country. This is where 80 percent of the population lives and yet their voices are seldom heard.

The day was perfect, sunny and hot. We met a group of around 30 women who had gathered at the Gogo centre for a pickle-making session. The three-legged pot was on the fire and filled with a delicious smelling mixture of cabbage, carrots and pepper when we arrived.

Pickle-making at the Gogo Centre.

The journalists paired off with some of the women and began their search for stories. Topics covered were voting, female MPs, education, health services and prevalence of gender-based violence.

Getting the scoop.

After a couple of hours the pickles were made and the stories scooped. Driving back to Manzini and Mbabane, I picked the journalists’ brains. Some women didn’t want to vote for other women because they couldn’t see how they would get anything done. Women don’t support other women due to jealousy and maybe because there are very few role models. The women at the Gogo centre were all taking adult education classes, trying to get through primary school studies, which for various reasons they had never received (married young, needed to care for siblings, needed to do chores around the house). When asked if they would think of running for office, the answer was, ‘Who would vote for me? I can’t even read or write. I need to get my education first.’

It’s been five days since we had the training and so far at least five stories have resulted. For some reason the paper used a shot of the women, plus me. Oh well. The stories are great and the voices of community women are getting out there. Yeah!

Here are some of the stories: http://misaswaziland.com/2013/05/26/misa-helps-generate-debate-on-womens-rights-during-election-coverage-training/



Participants at the community dialogue at Nkwene Inkhundla, Swaziland, March 7, 2013.

A letter I wrote and sent to all media outlets for International Women’s Day…..

We have seen the horrific headlines of women and children being raped and murdered, often by someone they know.  It’s not only happening here, but all over the world. How can we sit with broken hearts while the vulnerable suffer? What can we do about it?

Community women were really interested in all the educational material SWAGAA provided on gender-based violence.

The global theme for International Women’s Day is “A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence against Women and Girls.”  In Swaziland the messages are: “A True Leader Keeps a Promise: Support Action to End Violence Against Women and Girls” and “Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Begins with Me.”

The key point is action, from leaders and from ourselves.

What can leaders and the public do? Make perpetrators pay properly for their crimes with harsher sentences. Due punishment will also discourage rapists and abusers from so freely preying upon the vulnerable women and children. We must push for the passing of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill into law. While legislation and common laws exist to address cases, most are outdated and this is detrimental to survivors. The sentences are often low compared to the severity of the offence. A survivor is left with fear, inability to have intimate relations, physical pain and mental anguish – and a perpetrator often walks away free because our judicial system is so overloaded and intimidating to survivors that they drop the case. Even when a perpetrator is found guilty, in some cases they are back on the street before the survivor has fully healed.

The Bill, if passed into law, will ensure just and consistent punishment for those who commit these heinous crimes. It will discourage the keeping of “family secrets” since withholding information is an offense. Indecent treatment of children, forced marriage of a child, and child pornography are also specifically dealt with in the Bill.

Swaziland is known as a peaceful nation and yet in January and February SWAGAA clients reported a total of 272 cases of abuse.  (See attached charts). While there may be no civil or external war occurring here, domestic battles have been waged and women and children are on the losing side. It’s time for gender-based violence to cease. All Swazis must push for the Sexual Offenses and Domestic Violence Bill to be made into law to make our homes the safe, peaceful places they are meant to be.

Maureen Littlejohn,  Communications Officer

A traditional dance for the Prime Minister of Swaziland on March 7th, in preparation for International Women’s Day.

SWAGAA Statistics for 2012

Following are the statistics SWAGAA just released to the press. Not a pretty picture…We are in Marula season right (an alcoholic drink made from local fruit…you’ll notice February stats are higher and the celebration of this season is why. Lots of horrendous stories in the press right now about jealous drunk ex-boyfriends on killing sprees.)

During 2012, SWAGAA provided care and support for 1149 cases. This was slightly down from last year’s number which was 1248. Since abuse is under-reported, this does not mean there is a decease of abuse in Swaziland. On average, SWAGAA counselors took care of 96 cases per month. The months with the highest number of new clients were: January, February and October.

•    Emotional abuse cases were the highest at 50%, followed by physical at 19%, sexual at 15%, financial at 12% and neglect at 4%.

•    69% of survivors were female, 31% male. There has been a 3% increase in males reporting from 2011’s figures.

•    73% of perpetrators were male, 27% were female. Males went up by 1% compared to last year.

•    82% of perpetrators were family members, relatives or in a spousal or boyfriend/girlfriend relationship with the survivor.

•    The majority of survivors (284) were between 26-40 years old. 92 cases were children between 0-17.

•    89% of cases occurred in the home.

•    20% of clients were HIV positive, 4% were HIV negative and 4% did not wish to disclose. An astonishing 27% did not know their status.

There were 608 cases that occurred within the Manzini Region, 174 in Hhohho, 128 in Lubombo and 47 in Shiselweni. The high percentage of abuse cases in Manzini corresponds with the location of our main office.

Figure 1
* There are 957 cases recorded here. The remaining 192 occurred outside Swaziland but were still reported to SWAGAA.

The majority of cases, 647, were emotional/verbal abuse. Physical abuse was next at 245, followed by sexual abuse at 195 and financial abuse at 156. The remaining types of abuse cases were neglect and human trafficking as shown in the figure below.

Of survivor clients, 69% were female and 31% were male. There was a slight increase in the number of males reporting abuse especially emotional abuse. Last year’s figures were 28% male survivor clients.
The data relating to the sex of the perpetrator shows 73% were male and 27% were females.

Relationship between Survivor and Perpetrator
According to the available data, 82% of the perpetrators were family members, relatives or in a relationship (spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend) with the client. The data indicates that in the majority of cases the perpetrator is well known to the survivor of violence.

From available data on 650 SWAGAA clients, 284 were 26-40 years old. 135 clients were 18-25 and 117 were 41-60. A total of 92 clients were children between the ages of 0 and 17. Two clients did not state their age.

From a total of 650 reported cases, 576 occurred within the home. This means 89% of the reported cases of abuse happened at home. Nine cases did not state where the abuse occurred.

Analysis on the abuse within the home and relationship with perpetrators demonstrates that 47% of abuse at home is committed in ‘relationships’, meaning husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends etc. Family members and relatives cause 38% of the abuse which occurs at home.

The HIV status of 650 clients was collected during the counseling process. 20% of the clients were HIV positive, 46% were HIV negative and 4% did not wish to disclose their status. An astonishing 27% of clients did not know their HIV status which demonstrates a need for survivors of abuse to have access to Voluntary Counseling and Testing services.

•    The cases reported to SWAGAA represent only a proportion of the abuse which is occurring in Swaziland. According the A National Study on Violence against Children and Young Women in Swaziland by UNICEF in 2007, approximately 1 in 3 females have experienced some form of sexual violence as a child. Therefore conclusions can be drawn that there are a significant number of unreported cases. Continued advocacy and awareness needs to be conducted in order to increase reporting.
•    89% of the SWAGAA abuse cases happened within the home and the perpetrators were well known to the survivors. There needs to be an effort to increase safe spaces within Swazi homes and to investigate the role of such cultural practices as Tibi Tendlu (keeping family matters private).

Abducting girls for sex is a crime….Times, Jan. 18th, 2013

SWAGAA’S VOICE IN A STORY THAT APPEARED IN TIMES OF SWAZILAND JAN. 18th, 2013  http://www.times.co.sz/News/83642.html

The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGGA) has said abducting young girls for the purpose of having sexual intercourse with them is a crime and cannot be cloaked under the guise of ‘traditional marriage’.The organisation was reacting to a story that appeared in this publication yesterday, where a 21- year-old man abducted a 15- year-old girl for the purpose of traditionally marrying her.

Mfanufikile Dlamini, of Maphalaleni, was arrested and charged for abducting the girl with intent to have sexual intercourse with her or to marry her. He, on Wednesday, appeared before Mbabane Magistrate Phathaphatha Mdluli, who cautioned and discharged him.

Dlamini claimed he was preparing to marry the young girl and had already introduced her to his parents.

SWAGAA Communications Officer, Maureen Littlejohn, said although traditionalists such as acting Ludzidzini Governor, Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, have said underage girls can traditionally marry as long as they and their parents have agreed, this notion was highly disturbing.

“Swazi law states it is illegal to engage in sexual relationships with girls under the age of 16 (Girls And Women’s Protection Act of 1920).

“What is most disturbing is the fact that most of these ‘marriages’ are forced, with the young girls having little or no say in being married to much older men. “The situation is often forced because either the family wants to receive payment or, if sexual relations have occurred (usually forced upon the girl), the family wants to save face.”

She said they have read many tragic stories in the newspapers recently involving these types of marriages; from girls being forced to marry after being raped, to getting pregnant and dropping out of school as well as attempting suicide.

Littlejohn said what these girls were enduring in the name of ‘traditional marriage’ was a human rights violation.

She said Swaziland signed the Human Rights Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 received assent from King Mswati III to protect the lives and dignity of all children in Swaziland.

“Protecting young Swazi girls from traditional marriages that they don’t want is a matter of principle. It is not a complicated legal issue, but is simply a matter of upholding human rights and Swazi law,” she said.


Is early or forced marriage legal?
Marriage by definition is a formalised, binding partnership between consenting adults. An early or forced marriage however refers to the marriage a child, usually someone under 18. Although the Marriage Act, 1964 stipulates the minimum age for a civil rites marriage, there is no corresponding provision for a customary marriage. Unfortunately in Swaziland there is a prevalent culture of young girls being forced into marriage, usually in terms of Swazi Law and Custom.
According to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – marriage before the age of 18 shouldn’t be allowed since children don’t have the ‘full maturity and capacity to act.’  The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that marriage should be ‘entered only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.’ Where one of the parties getting married is under 18, consent cannot always be assumed to be ‘free and full.’  There are many reasons why girls are forced into marriage in Swaziland. These may include: gender inequality – women and girls often occupy a lower status as a result of social and cultural traditions, attitudes, beliefs that deny them their rights and stifle their ability to play an equal role in their homes and communities.
•    Poverty – in families on a low income, girls may be viewed as an economic burden. The perception of girls’ potential to earn an income as comparatively poor pushes girls out of their homes and into marriage
•    Negative traditional or religious practices –     such as the importance attributed to preserving family ‘honour’ usually where the girl child has fallen pregnant before marriage or whilst at school. There is a belief that marriage safeguards against ‘immoral’ or ‘inappropriate behaviour’ which results in parents pushing their daughters into marriage well before they are ready. A lot of it, though, is due to the failure to enforce laws. Sometimes families are not even aware they are breaking the law. In some countries early marriage is so prevalent, prosecutions are seldom brought

What are the consequences of early and forced marriage?
Early and forced marriage further drives girls into a cycle of poverty and powerlessness. They are likely to experience:
•    violence, abuse and forced sexual relations – women who marry younger are more likely to be beaten and to believe that husbands can justify it
•    poor sexual and reproductive health – young married girls are more likely to contract HIV than their unmarried counterparts because of their greater sexual exposure, often with an older husband who by virtue of his age is more at risk of being HIV positive
•    illiteracy and lack of education – girls tend to drop out of school shortly before or when they get married. There is a commonplace view that once a girl is married she has crossed the threshold into adulthood and no longer needs an education.
Getting and keeping girls in school may be one of the best ways to foster later, consensual marriage, while also contributing the delayed sexual initiation, lower rates of HIV and AIDs and greater gender equality.
Swaziland is a signatory to many of the conventions that are relevant to forced and early marriage. The Child Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 also provides that a child  has a right to refuse to be compelled to undergo or uphold any custom or practices that are likely to negatively affect the child’s life.  SWAGAA calls for the proper enforcement of such provisions in Swaziland to ensure that the rights, dignity of every child is safeguarded and girls can also reach their potential in life

The final push…16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence

The mini skirt march almost didn’t happen. The police thought the girls were “indecently dressed.” Ironically, they had to change into jeans and longer skirts. Doubly ironic considering the barely-there “cultural” attire at the Reed Dance!

As tomorrow is the final day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign, I thought I’d tally up the week’s awareness-raising accomplishments. On Tuesday, I accompanied Doreen, the Girls Empowerment Club co-coordinator, to the Swaziland Broadcasting station (SBIS) where she did a terrific phone-in radio show. Some of the callers wanted to know why men aren’t targeted during the campaign. They are, but with 77% of the survivors being women, well, they get the lion’s share of attention. We did have one man come and speak at the launch about the financial abuse he suffered at the hands of his wife’s family, who cleared out his home when she died. Nomthandazo, SWAGAA’s child counselor, did three radio shows on Voice of Church, talking about child, adult and youth sexual abuse. I wrote a half page advertorial that ran in the Times about the link between gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. I also had an article on the same topic published by The Nation magazine. Wednesday I spoke at the Girls Empowerment Club stakeholders’ meeting, with 50 girls club members, about why we were wearing the white ribbon on our chests and what wonderful ambassadors the girls are 365 days of the year, helping to report cases of abuse and spreading the word on how to prevent it. Friday was the mini-skirt march and the UN Women’s Ride On, Men Speak Out campaign, where bikers from eight countries rode through Manzini in support of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign. I personally got to pin white ribbons on all these tough, burly and hugely supportive fellows!

Tomorrow is the last day of the campaign. There’s going to be a media breakfast at Mountain Inn. The Deputy Prime Minister’s office will make remarks, as will the executive director of SWAGAA. Ntombi Nyoni, the SWAGAA legal officer, will discuss the Gender Protocol Barometer, a monitoring of gender policies throughout Southern Africa. There will also be a media Q&A session. Newspapers, radio and TV have been very influential in getting the message out this year and the Gender Consortium, (I’m on the Media Committee), is very thankful.

Even though tomorrow is the end of the campaign, the work will continue to roll forward. Behaviour change is the most difficult kind of change. The message may have been dispersed, but now we have to see it put into action.


Stalking in the Name of Culture

In light of my last posting, I thought this update on the Senate’s defense of so called “customs” that are harmful to women in Swaziland was very interesting….


Courtesy: The Centre for Human Rights and Development


The plight of women in Swaziland is far from over as parliamentarians opposed the protection of women from stalking. Senators were discussing the longstanding Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill of 2000 yesterday. The proposed law seeks to protect among others women from unlawful stalking.

The senators argued that stalking was part of social cultural norms hence proscribing it will violate the culture of Swazis. According to the Times of Swaziland (8 November at page 5) one senator decried the criminalization of forced marriages saying that such custom was more important as it ensured that a girl’s father was able to benefit from his daughter’s marriage since the girl would be given to a man who has cattle to pay lobola.

Culture has continued to be used as a shield to condone the violation of human rights in Swaziland. During this time of the year a group of men identifying themselves as members of the”water party,”( a group of men who are commissioned by royalty to traverse the country ahead of the annual incwala ceremony), go around the country harassing and imposing fine on women who are not properly dressed according to Swazi cultural norms.

This is despite the Constitution guaranteeing the protection of women from deleterious customs. The Swazi Constitution also contains equality and non-discrimination clauses which ought to serve as a yardstick for the treatment of women.

Swaziland is party to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other regional and international human rights instruments having a bearing on women, hence the continued violation of women rights on the basis of culture demonstrates the country’ failure to comply to its international obligations. During Swaziland’s human rights review session in March this year, several recommendations were made regarding the protection of women which Swaziland accepted and undertook to take action. It is disheartening to see parliamentarians openly condoning discriminatory customs as one would have hoped to see positive action being taken to eliminate such practices.

Human Rights, Respect and Tradition in Swaziland

Swazi women performers at the cultural village in Ezulweni.

The words “traditional culture” come up again and again when I read the newspaper and speak with Swazi friends. Usually it’s a point of pride, but occasionally the phrase becomes a catch-all excuse for behaviour that doesn’t really jibe with 21st century norms. For instance, a man accused of beating a child or abusing a woman will quite often defend himself, saying “this is my traditional culture.” Plus, there is quite a lot of confusion about “Human Rights” versus “Respect.” My colleagues at SWAGAA who go out to the rural communities have told me time and time again that male leaders are very suspicious about the promotion of human rights because they believe human rights allow women and children to disrespect their traditional laws and customs. Ahh. It other words they fear losing their absolute grip on authority.

Swaziland’s version of Pioneer Village.

Swaziland is a country full of contradictions, just like any place. To get a little insight on the “traditions,” I visited a cultural village in Ezulweni. Built for tourists on a lovely piece of forested land with frothing rapids, the village demonstrates what Swazi life was like 100 years ago, and some of it still holds true today.

Checking out one of the compound’s beehive huts. These aren’t used very much anymore, but the traditional social norms from these times are alive and well.

Swaziland’s social structure is based on clans that intermingle through marriage. In a “traditional” marriage the bridgroom’s family pays “lobola” a dowry, in the form of cattle, in keeping with the status of the bride’s family. Our guide noted the usual bride price was 17 head of cattle for a virgin. At a party I attended recently, a well lubricated Swazi guest noted he’d pay 24 cattle for my Australian friend Isabel. She said she’d cost way more.

Lead male dancer at the cultural village.

When a groom pays lobola, any child born of the union belongs to the father’s family. This can get quite complicated if the father dies and the mother wants to remarry. In fact, widows often have a really difficult time here since “traditionally” the deceased husband’s land, belongings etc. revert to his side of the family and a widow will find her home cleared of possessions if she leaves it unprotected. Although constitutionally women have rights and can own land, traditionally they are treated like minors. Patriarchy is very much the norm in Swaziland and women often have a difficult time enacting their constitutional rights.

Traditional male group dancing demonstration at the cultural village.

I’ve written about the Umhlanga Dance, where girls don tiny skirts and sashes and perform before the King and Queen Mother. The men’s equivalent celebration and right of passage is the Incwala ceremony, which is held in December. “Bemanti” (people of the water”) go to the Indian Ocean to collect water, a symbolic act connected to the king’s power, and return to the royal kraal in Lobamba (the King’s spiritual home). On the full moon, youths from all over the kingdom travel to collect scared branches of the “lusekwane” shrub (a species of acacia). On the third day of the ceremony a bull is ritually slaughtered by the youths to instill solidarity. I have read various salacious pieces on the Internet about this practice, which involves the King. Not going to comment here. On the fourth day the King dons his ceremonial garb and joins his “warriors” in a traditional dance. Boys in Swazi culture are part of regiments that perform dances together during Incwala. The ceremony concludes with rituals involving the harvest and blessings of the ancestors. This year the Incwala ceremony will be around the end of December. That’s one way to ring in the new year.

Rapids running through the cultural village property. Gorgeous.

International Day of the Girl Child Event a Success!

Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku with winners of the essay competion at International Day of the Girl Child festivities on Oct. 11, 2012.


After two months of planning, the Swaziland International Day of the Girl Child was a smash success! Three weeks of media were a great lead up to the actual day. Representatives from SWAGAA (including me) and various NGOs spoke on radio and TV about the dangers of teen pregnancy, early sexual debut and the reality of sexual abuse in this country. The statistics are shocking, but at least there are prevention measures such as education and awareness campaigns in place.

On the actual day, Oct. 11th, there was a commemorative event at Happy Valley Casino and resort, where the winners of the essay contest were able to read their essays. It was enlightening, upsetting and heartwarming all at the same time. Beautiful 10-year-old girl children telling their stories and warning perpetrators to stop abusing girls. I cried, and I laughed with joy watching them do dances, songs and poems that blew the rest of the house away as well. Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku attended, as did U.S. Ambassador Makila James, and top represetatives from the UNFPA and the UNDP offices.

Having attended all the planning meetings, and having coordinated the essay contest, it was a big day for me and all the girl children of Swaziland.


1st place essay competion winner in the 14-18-year-old category.

The DPM presents the winner in the under-13 category with her prize.

A beautiful song from the Lusoti Primary School girls.

What International Day of the Girl Child Means to SWAGAA

Members of the Girls Empowerment Club, Swazi National High School with SWAGAA's Doreen Ngwenya (lower, centre), co-ordinator of the clubs, and a teacher from the school (r).

An article I wrote that appeared in The Times of Swaziland…..

The first International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 is an exciting event for the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) as it marks a culmination of a several efforts and initiatives aimed at supporting the Girl Child worldwide and in the country.
A prime example, which is the pride and joy of SWAGAA, is the Girls Empowerment Clubs programme. This initiative is modeled after a programme in Zimbabwe and was born out of a belief that all girls have a right to a safe space where they can freely and openly learn about their human rights, share their experiences, and their hopes for the future.  SWAGAA started the program in 2008 with the support from Canada’s Crossroads International as a way to encourage the development of a positive self-concept among young girls while providing comprehensive education about sexual and gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS and healthy life choices. The establishment of the school-based clubs was in response to the disturbing findings of a UNICEF 2007 study on Violence Against Children which showed one in three females in Swaziland have experienced sexual violence as a child.
Currently there are 12 clubs, five in primary schools and seven in high schools in both rural and urban areas in the country. On an annual basis, more than 400 young girls benefit from these safe spaces and begin to realize their strength and potential.  To date, more than 2,000 Swazi girls have gained the skills that will prepare them to become dynamic women in leadership and agents of change for society.
Assessments of the program show some very positive results, which among others include: reported decrease in school drop-out rate due to teenage pregnancy, reported increase in club members’ academic achievement despite poor performance prior to club establishment – some have even ranked in the top five achievers.
One of the most effective tools used in the club is a personal journal, which every club member receives. When permitted by the girls, club leaders read through the journals to identify and report challenges in the girls’ lives. This exercise allows the girls to speak out about their life experiences and enables the club leaders to assist them, whether through identifying and referring cases of abuse to SWAGAA, or to connect the girl with other relevant structures within the community such as child protection committees for other support needs. The examples are many. One leader recalled a nine-year-old girl in a rural area who drew a house with no windows, roof or doors. It was empty. She also drew a picture of herself and two younger siblings looking very lonely, playing outside. After reading through the journal, the leader asked her about the picture. The girl said she wanted to become a better person tomorrow, so she could finish the house her deceased parents left to them. This further enabled the club leader to identify the abject poverty the children were living in and connect them to other agencies (including Crossroads International, which provided them with school uniforms) and community structures which monitored their situation and ensured the children attended school and had a healthy living situation.
Through working with trained mentors, SWAGAA ensures that the girls also develop a strong sense of responsibility toward the development of their communities. Girls are encouraged to do community outreach programs to get buy-in from the community, while raising awareness about the Girls Empowerment Clubs and the activities they engage in.
SWAGAA appreciates the importance of empowering the boy child too, particularly in the area of human rights and gender. It is important to challenge and deconstruct status quo notions of masculinity starting at an early age and it is for this reason that SWAGAA has developed a program for engaging men and boys as agents in promoting Human Rights and Gender Justice in Swaziland.
On October 11th, the world celebrates the girl child because globally, where there is poverty, disease, lack, exploitation, discrimination, unemployment, illiteracy, mortality, and hunger — the most vulnerable to these social ills is the girl child.  There is a need to champion the girl child, to break the divide and ensure that girls and boys, men and women, can have equal opportunities and be celebrated equally.