Thobile Dlamini – Swaziland

Thobile Dlamini – Swaziland

Date: May 29, 2012
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If you don’t know anything about gender, you have lost the fight against HIV and AIDs. The way I implement programs is so different now that I am more gender conscious, and I feel enlightened. Through my training with Gender Links, I came to understand that gender has to be at the core of everything we do. This has opened my eyes. Too often, we generalise without taking into consideration of the specific needs of both girls and boys.

I am the Municipal HIV and AIDS programme manager for a non-governmental organisation called Amiccall. The organisation works with the municipality in rolling out HIV and AIDS programmes, voluntary counselling and testing and condom distribution. My responsibilities include working with HIV infected expectant mothers to get them registered for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programs, as well as the feeding of orphans and vulnerable children through a home based care programme.

My journey with Gender Links has been like a trip between two friends; I have learned a lot along the way. In important lesson for me has been about how the abuse of women’s rights impedes development in so many different respects. But just as importantly, I’ve learned very practical things we can all do to change the situation. Through gender training, I now know what measures the government of Swaziland government can take to address issues of gender inequality, and to protect women and men from all forms of gender based violence. If both sexes can appreciate each other, so much can be achieved.

My presentation skills have improved ever since I started attending Gender Links workshops. This has helped me to stand firm in my beliefs, and to appreciate other women and the work they do in making the world a better place. In the past, I used to think that gender equality was all about undoing what God had created. According to my beliefs at the time, a man was the head of the family and a woman had to be submissive all the times. As I got to know more about gender issues my attitudes changed. This isn’t to say I have given up my faith. I just have a more sophisticated understanding of it.

In my community, it takes a lot of guts for a woman to stand up for her rights; there is a lot of stigma around gender issues. In some communities, women who are gender activists are called a lot of bad names. As an example, men are even scared to be seen in public doing what is considered ‘women’ duties for fear of being called names.

These negative attitudes can be changed if all people get proper training on gender issues. I used to be like those people too, because I had very little knowledge on the issues. But today I am enlightened, and in a position where I am actually helping others understand the issues.

In the future, I plan to start specific projects for women that will address their needs. For example, programmes for women trying to access PMCT. I am thankful for having been part of the Swaziland delegation that attended the regional Gender Justice and Local Government summit that was held in Johannesburg in April 2012. The opportunity gave me the chance to come here and learn from other people involved in the same programmes we are doing back home; this will help me shape my programmes.


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