Girls Empowerment Clubs
Instances of gender-based violence (GBV) and child sexual abuse (CSA) in Eswatini are distressingly high. Gender inequality has led to extreme levels of exposure to violence and HIV among Swazi girls and women. As a result, the long-term health and well-being of Swazi women and girls are constantly under threat.
The National Violence Against Children Survey (2007) showed that 48% of girls 13-24 years olds reported experiencing some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. These alarming rates prompted the development of SWAGAA’s Girls Empowerment Club (GEC) program in 2008 to help address this urgent issue.
Girls Empowerment Clubs were first started as a pilot project in Eswatini in 2008/2009. Originally, there were only 6 schools participating in the program. However, today, we have GECs in 46 schools across the country and a total of 2040 empowered and knowledgeable girls.
The GECs bring girls together on a weekly basis to hold guided discussions on important issues, including:
- Sexual reproductive health
- Children’s rights
- Gender roles and behaviours.
The girls are supported by teachers in their schools who facilitate clubs and monitor activities. In addition, girls are supported by mentors – young female-volunteers that have often graduated from previous clubs in their community.
Learn more about gender-based violence in Eswatini here.
Boys for Change Club
Boys are not immune to violence and its consequences. In the last month, 68% of boys reported experiencing physically violent discipline. Furthermore, 88% of boys and girls under the age of 14 reported psychological aggression or physical punishment in their homes. Regionally, we know that somewhat fewer than 1 in 7 boys experience sexual violence before age 18.
For girls, violence in childhood can predict experiences of intimate partner violence or GBV in adulthood. However, for boys, violence in childhood is associated with increased risk of growing up to be perpetrators of violence.
Gender-based violence can be prevented but it is only possible when we focus on ending this cycle of abuse.
Changing attitudes around gender roles and responsibilities requires the support of both men and women as well as boys and girls. This is why we developed our new Boys for Change Club (BCC) program in 2017. The BCC program works to mentor and inspire boys to adopt positive and transformative gender attitudes, practices and norms.
In February 2018, we completed a training workshop for young men aged 18-30 to become mentors through the BCC program. Their goal is to involve boys in the dialogue around gender-based violence, gender equality and human rights.
Through our Empowering Girls for Health and Wellbeing project, we will be implementing ten (10) Boys for Change Clubs in two regions in Eswatini – Lumbobo and Manzini – over the next two years. The ultimate goal for SWAGAA is to have a Boys for Change Club in every school that we currently facilitate a Girls Empowerment Club.
Advancing gender equality, women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health cannot be done by women and girls alone. Men and boys play an important role in advocating for social justice and transformative gender norms. Unfortunately, their engagement in these issues has often been overlooked.
As an active member of the MenEngage Alliance – Africa, we have been working to promote the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality and ending gender-based violence. As the Secretariat for the MenEngage Network – Swaziland, we help to guide and support national efforts, programmes and strategies that incorporate men and boys in eradicating gender-based violence and sexual abuse