Busisiwe Simelane – Swaziland

Date: June 30, 2015
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I am a Programme Officer at Schools Health and Population Education (SHAPE), housed within the Ministry of Education in Mbane, Swaziland.

SHAPE delivers in-school youth interventions for girls and boys between the ages of 6-18 years old. We are working towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 2, targeting education for all by 2015. Swaziland is signatory to the Millennium Declaration, so we have committed to reach this goal.

I first encountered and worked with Gender Links (GL) in 2010, during the 16 days campaign against gender-based violence. The theme for that year focused on stopping militarism at home and eliminating Gender-Based Violence (GBV) at home. GL reinforces gender equality and shows us how gender mainstreaming needs to happen in every aspect of life and work. It means that we should make gender part and parcel of our everyday activities, and I am trying to take this on board in many different ways. For example, now when we do our trainings at SHAPE for our peer educators, they are of both sexes; we have 50 girls and 50 boys.

I am a member of the Gender Consortium that works with GL on implementing the SADC Gender and Development Protocol in Swaziland. We were tasked with rating the country in terms of how Swaziland is progressing in achieving the objectives that are set out in the MDGs and the SADC protocol. I have had to assess how Swaziland is handling gender issues, and that is one very key activity that I have been involved with.

I have also participated in GL trainings on gender issues, gender-sensitive budgeting and gender and climate change. With climate change, I did not even see how gender was related, but through GL I learned something new. At the gender-inclusive budgeting training, we were introduced to basics on gender issues then they took us through how we can mainstream gender into our budgets in our different thematic areas. I also learned that women are doing a lot of unpaid and informal work. Yet women are equally contributing to the economic well-being of the country.

The most memorable experience I have had with GL, and that was quite significant to me, was my handling of the programme of the 50/50 Campaign launch on Monday the 8th of October, 2012 in Mbane. That will always be in my memory. I had never handled a programme of that magnitude. It made me feel good, and it has actually put my confidence levels up. I was speaking confidently because GL trusted me with such a big responsibility. Honestly, I got overwhelmed. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

We are presently at 18.8 percent representation of women in politics in Swaziland. We need to move to 30 % so that by 2015 we can be closer to the 50% target. To me, with this launch, we could even go beyond the 30%. The people in attendance were speaking strongly, the womens’ voices will be heard and you could see that they realise what they are capable of.

Some of the things that I am currently learning in my Master degree programme are related to what I have learned through GL. The Master I’m pursuing is an MSc in leadership and change management. Part of change management is also about unlearning certain stereotypes. How you adjust within a system that has been held onto for quite some time, how you change it gradually without agitating others, and how you use mild approaches to get messages through without being rude. I have also learned how to interact and negotiate with people.

I also bring lessons from Gender Links into other spheres of my work. Through the Southern African Development Community (SADC) programme, we aim to make schools inclusive centres of care and support so that all children are provided with a minimum package of services. Within this programme, food, nutrition, water, sanitation, health, protection and safety, HIV/AIDS education and services, gender equality, life skills, and psychosocial support are essential to quality education in the region. We coordinate this SADC programme at SHAPE by monitoring trends in programme activities outcomes, for instance, student enrolment and retention. We want to see that once students find their way into the programme, they stay into the second year and so on. This programme runs throughout SADC, and we coordinate it on behalf of SADC and Swaziland’s Ministry of Education.

We ensure that sexual reproductive health issues are tackled in school, and create a safe environment for children to identify for themselves who they are, by training children on decision-making and communication skills. Making sure that we are mainstreaming gender at this stage is very important to the programme’s outcomes, and Gender Links has helped us to be more effective.



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