Thobile Jele – Swaziland

Thobile Jele – Swaziland

Date: May 29, 2012
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I used to look down upon gender activists, and thought they were simply trying to reverse the roles of men and women in the home and in the society. It was only when Gender Links informed me about gender issues that I realized that gender activism is actually about standing up for everyone’s rights.

Through the partnership between my town council of Lavumisa and Gender Links, I have learned that men and women are equal, and that it is important to get communities to understand that despite the different gender roles between the two sexes, there is still equality. This has really changed my outlook on life, and I am now acting out these changes in the way I approach social issues.

I have seen in myself how important it is for people to be given the correct information, and that’s why I’m planning on catching people in the community young by having a programme with schools were learners get a chance to understand gender roles in order to prepare them for the future. It is important to advise men that gender issues do not mean women’s issues only! Gender issues are about all of us.

It makes me happy to realize that all my efforts have not been in vain. Slowly, they are helping change mind-sets in my community. I have a very fond memory of a particular meeting I held with a local community, and one of the older men participating in the meeting stood up and corrected other men on their attitudes on gender issues. I felt really proud to see the impact we can have on peoples attitudes. I am optimistic that the campaign will be a success, since some of the men we are working with are in leadership positions and it will be easy for them to influence other men to to understand gender issues and see women as their equals.

As the municipal HIV and AIDS programmes manager, my post exposes me to many people who have been directly or indirectly affected by the disease. Despite mainstreaming gender in my work projects to get people used to the message of equality, I plan to work with a marginalised group of sex workers in order to improve their lives. After realising how society discriminates against commercial sex workers, I was driven to embark on a project aimed at finding out more about the industry and what kind of support they require. Society tends to discriminate against sex workers, and in most cases we never take time to understand what really goes on in these women’s lives. Just like us, they are mothers, sisters and daughters of other people. I have started to engage these women in other money generating projects like operating a car wash. However, because the project is still in its infancy, we are short of hoovers which will enable u to compete with other car wash services in the area. My dream is to touch other people’s lives and contribute to a better tomorrow.

Besides financially supporting commercial sex workers, I hope the project will also offer emotional support for the families of orphans left behind when some of them pass away. Many of the sex workers come from very poor families, and rates of HIV infection are high. When they die, there is no money to send their kids to school. One day I hope our project will be making enough money to give these orphans a better education.


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