Swaziland: Kwendzisa is an offence

Date: October 25, 2012
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Name of story: Kwendzisa is an offence

Name of journalist: Kwanele Dhladhla

Name of publication: Times of Swaziland

Date: 10 September 2012

Country: Swaziland

Theme: Children, Culture and tradition

Skills: sources, perspective

Genre: News

GEM classification: Gender blind

Description: This media highlight analyses a news story published in the Times of Swaziland newspaper about the banning of child marriages in the country. The critique focuses on how the reporter highlighted gender issues, sources interviewed/mentioned in the story and the perspective of the article.

Although the headline is relevant to the article, it falls short of other things that could have made it a more appropriate title. Firstly, the reporter could have italicised “Kwendzisa” in the headline because it is a vernacular noun/term used in an English heavy text article. Secondly, the title does not use strong words that would grab the attention of a heterogeneous audience conversant with English language. Perhaps the reporter could have titled the article “child marriages banned”.


The story uses four sources. The reporter indirectly quotes the Children Protection and Welfare Act of 2012, the Girl’s Protection Act of 1920 and the Deputy Prime Minister. On the other hand, the article directly quotes a traditionalist and a communications officer of The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse. The reporter should be commended for including dissenting views in the article – a traditionalist who is quoted saying “for now, we will abide by the order as stated in the new legislation. However, when the need arises in future, we will not resist applying for a review.”

However, the article is missing other voices that could have widened the article’s perspective and increased its depth. For instance, the reporter could have sought the views of HIV/Aids and gender equality experts. According to HIV/Aids and gender experts, child marriages expose young girls to HIV, gender violence and it denies them their right to education. These experts could have therefore commented on how the banning of Kwendzisa will positively impact on the lives of girls in the country.

Language: The article uses gender neutral language.

Visual images: The article uses two head shots – the Deputy Prime minister and the traditionalist. Although the pictures are relevant to the article, they are not the best pictures the reporter could have used for this story. Perhaps the journalist could have used a picture of young school girls – shot from the back with a caption “Kwendzisa robes young girls their many rights including to education”.

Story angle and perspective
The article is about the banning of child marriages, a cultural practice known in SiSwati as Kwendzisa. According to the article, it is now illegal for male adults to marry a girl who is below the age of 18.

However, the article is shallow in perspective and depth – the reporter missed out quite a number of important issues that s/he could have included.

For instance, HIV/Aids experts argue that Kwendzisa is among the accelerators of the spread of HIV in the country. This means that the banning of the practice has rescued many girls from HIV/Aids trap. Secondly, the development will lead to more youngsters staying in school a thing that in the long run will improve female literacy rate in the country from the current 86% (SADC Gender Protocol 2012 Barometer). By interviewing the above suggested sources, the reporter would have included these plus many other issues to the article.

Placement or positioning

The article is placed in page seven of the newspaper. The article deserved a better page considering the subject and impact the development will have on a girl child in the country. Human rights experts argue that outdated cultural practices impinge on girls’ and women’s rights and it is high time that people graduated from such practices. Putting this story on the front page for instance would have set a public agenda regarding many other outdated cultural practices that need to be banned.

Training exercises:
– Organise a class debate and discuss cultural practices in your country that could be modernised/modified to empower women and girls as opposed to impinging on their rights

Other training resources:
– SADC Gender Protocol 2012 Barometer
– Malawi: Parents marrying off daughters as young as nine
Redefining Child Rights within a Cultural Framework in the era of HIV and Aids
Culture, gender and development


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