ESwatini: Young Women’s Alliance make themselves heard

Date: February 26, 2019
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Young women living in Swaziland experience a wide variety of unique challenges as compared to their male counterparts, from sexual and reproductive health to economic opportunity to physical safety, all of which negatively impact their long-term development. Adolescent girls in particular struggle with issues related to their sexual and reproductive health, all of which have far-reaching consequences. Many girls in eSwatini become sexually active at an early age; early sexual debut among girls (some before the age of 15) in eSwatini stands at 48% compared to 38% for boys (UNFPA, 2013). Being sexually active early in adolescence poses a risk for teenage pregnancy and resultant school dropouts, sexually transmitted infections, and cervical cancer (the most fatal cancer for women in eSwatini according to HPV Centre, 2015). Despite various programmes and initiatives aimed at reducing the rate of adolescent pregnancy in eSwatini, this remains a significant challenge.

The project aims to create a platform for young women to come together to discuss issues related to gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, GBV, economic empowerment, and social issues.

The local councils provide them with the organisational structure to support their individual and community goals through education, skills building, public speaking opportunities, mentorship, and social support. This group will advise SRHR service providers on programmatic interventions to improve service delivery for young women, including activities such as streamlining the referral system for victims of sexual assault, and including young women’s voices in decision making surrounding allocation of resources.

Watch the Walk In Her Shoes Campaign Video here

The programme will:

For young women

  • Provide a safe space for young women to unite and have an open dialogue among peers surrounding the unique challenges of female adolescence and young adulthood
  • Empower young women with resources to achieve financial independence, safety, sexual agency, social support, and physical and mental health.
  • Advocate for improved access for women and girls to essential, safe and adequate multi-sectoral services to end violence against women and girls.
  • Improved prevention of violence against women and girls through changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices.
  • Having effective legislations, policies, national action plans and accountability systems to prevent and end violence against women and girls.
  • Provide a safe space for young women and girls to fully participate in political spheres, policy making and decision-making processes.

For service providers and support services

  • Improve communication among existing organizations supporting young women; improve efficiency and efficacy of mobilization of existing community resources to support young women
  • Strengthen community support for the inclusion of young women in decision making bodies in government and NGO boards

At country level

  • Creation of eSwatini’s first and only young female-specific platform for gender equality advocacy and social support under the SADC Gender Protocol Alliance.
  • Reduction in reported stigma in peers discussing previously stigmatized issues surrounding gender and sex, such as HIV and GBV.
  • Creation of structured mentorship relationships between young women and female facilitators representing a variety of disciplines
  • Decrease in rates of teen pregnancy, STIs, HIV, GBV, unemployment, and financially dependent relationships among participants
  • Increase in participants reporting increased confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of community among other young women.
  • Establishment of a young women business development fund to assist young women who are willing to venture into businesses.
  • Creating a sustainable partnership center with other stakeholders for various young women’s needs.

At SADC level

  • Connect young women with opportunities to represent and advocate for eSwatini and her young women on the international stage
  • Inform and shape national and regional policy and measures of programmatic success surrounding services that support young women.
  • Sharing of best practices and providing a networking platform for further interventions.
  • Breaking cultural differences that can limit good relations amongst young women.

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