Eswatini: Leaving no woman behind in violence prevention
“People with disabilities have equal rights just like everybody else.” - Futhi Malwane, member of the Family Clubs organized by Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse
Refugee women and girls as well as women and girls living with disabilities in Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) experience heightened risks of violence due to the multiple, intersecting forms of discrimination as well as stigma and limited access to information about their rights and support services.
Tackling the violence
As part of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) Special Window on addressing violence against women and girls with disabilities, Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) is implementing a project called “Leave No One Behind: Towards a VAW/G free Eswatini” in collaboration with the local non-profit organization Bantwana Initiative.
The project aims to prevent violence against refugee women and girls and those living with disabilities, focusing on youth, in the Lubombo region of Eswatini, including the Malindza refugee camp.
SWAGAA, a women-led women’s rights organization, facilitates violence prevention activities, provides comprehensive care and support services, and advocates for legal and policy reform. It also works to influence social norms and facilitate survivors’ access to justice by fostering safe environments and building the agency of women and girls.
SWAGAA has engaged with community members and leaders to identify the root causes and drivers of violence against women and girls. These discussions, which have already involved nearly 6,000 people, aim to change social norms and behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality and violence against women and girls, and create safe spaces within communities. Almost all of the men (90%) who have attended have committed to supporting girls and women in their communities and to reporting cases of violence.
For many women and girls, home can be an unsafe place. For young women living with disabilities, the risk may be higher as they are often heavily reliant on their caregivers for information, care and access to services. SWAGAA has therefore also promoted healthier parent-child interactions, more responsive caregiving, and safer environments for children at home through Family Clubs. From October 2020 to September 2021, 428 caregivers took part in the project’s “positive parenting” programme, of whom nearly three-quarters reported beneficial changes in parenting practices.
Nonhlanhla Dlamini, Executive Director of SWAGAA, explained the importance of the “positive parenting” sessions:
“Parents and caregivers… can play a crucial role in ensuring the protection of adolescent girls and young women from violence, and often, are the first line of response and support.”
Improving access to services
SWAGAA meets regularly with government stakeholders and service providers to share best practices and build their capacity to manage cases of violence against women and girls.
It has also successfully pushed for the full participation of organizations of persons with disabilities in the referral network across all regions, resulting in more inclusive and equitable prevention and response services.
Notably, SWAGAA has leveraged the regional gender-based violence referral network in four regions of Eswatini to tackle language barriers that can discriminate against refugee girls and limit their access to specialist services.