Sunday Observer : 2019-01-06

FEATURES : 27 : 27

FEATURES

SundayObserver FEATURES 27 January 6, 2019 This - SDG 5 Gender Equality time of year and the anticipation of new beginnings generally inspires reflection within us. Whether the previous year has been good or bad, we look forward to a better future with the incoming year. It is a time where people make new year’s resolutions. These typically seek to enhance or strengthen operation or activity in various areas of life, usually where there has been weakness, but resolutions also inspire the pursuit of new things. Regardless of motivation, we all seek to do better in an effort to improve our lives. “ LEGACY: ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY JFK – (A HURISWA initiative supported by UNESCO to promote gender equality in Eswatini) Setting national priorities In the context of the ‘life’ of this country, there is a need to do better in addressing developmental deficits. It is widely acknowledged that the cumulative effect of the actions of previous governments has been to leave us with serious socio-economic, cultural and political challenges. While it is important to understand this and the systemic flaws that have resulted in our current state, we do need to move forward now. We are where we are and the blame game won’t fix anything - let us learn the lessons and make a concerted effort to address the issues. The country has set itself ambitious development targets, and with 2022 around the corner, there will have to be a heightened level of seriousness and cohesion within all sectors and at all levels if any progress is to be made. Otherwise this vision, already hanging on the slimmest of threads, will be a mere pipedream. Enduring challenges of poverty and hunger must be addressed From a human rights perspective, the people must be at the centre, hence it is critical that the factors that impact on human development are prioritised. Issues that remain painfully agonising are poverty and hunger, both of which are amongst the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) to which Eswatini has committed. The majority of our people live in abject poverty and many continue to skip meals in order to survive; many of these are on medication because of the state of their health. According to USAID, the ‘Swaziland Annual Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis report projected that that approximately 177 000 people— more than 15 percent of the population— would be in urgent need of food assistance during the 2017/2018 lean season—when food is most scarce.” This level of food insecurity, which inevitably fuels other social ills, cannot be left unattended. As we examine such statistics, we need to remember that the numbers reflect actual human beings. When visiting poor rural communities, one is confronted with the urgency of putting in place national programmes aimed at addressing the inequalities in our society. From a human rights perspective, the people must be at the centre hence it is critical that the factors that impact on human development are prioritised. Issues that remain painfully agonising are poverty and hunger, both of which are amongst the global sustainable development goals (SDGs), to which Eswatini has committed. The majority of our people live in abject poverty and many continue to skip meals in order to survive; many of these are on medication because of the state of their health to communicate how they address their human rights impacts. In the context of eSwatini, research is needed to more fully understand the impact that business is having on either advancing or impeding human rights. Nonetheless, government will have to ensure that in its quest to grow the economy, it does not allow business to ride roughshod over these rights. der-based violence and the perpetuation of the cycle of poverty amongst women and their families. There are many more examples. Whatever policies, laws and other gaps allowed emaSwati to be abused by such business practices must be reviewed. meaningful participation and leadership are necessary. There are many advisory bodies, boards, commissions and committees still to be appointed. Those responsible must make such appointments with the gender parity principle in mind. The country’s economy and the condition of her people will not make any significant progress if women are not involved! outcomes that people’s lives. This will not only mean ensuring that resources are equitably distributed, it will also mean monitoring business practice to ensure that human rights are not violated in pursuit of profit. tangibly improves UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights Business violating human rights: MTN Swaziland and AGOA Economic growth does not equal poverty alleviation Understanding the power of business, the UN has developed guiding principles which set out the duties of States and businesses in ensuring the prtecton, respect and fulfillment of human rights. According to these principles, “In meeting their duty to protect, states should: Enforce laws that are aimed at, or have the effect of, requiring business enterprises to respect human rights, and periodically to assess the adequacy of such laws and address any gaps; Ensure that other laws and policies governing the creation and ongoing operation of business enterprises, such as corporate law, do not constrain but enable business respect for human rights; Provide effective guidance to business enterprises on how to respect human rights throughout their operations; Encourage, and where appropriate require, business enterprises Take MTN, for instance. It is widely acknowledged that ICTs are an important driving force for economic growth. Access to these is also a human right. Yet MTN was allowed to maintain an indefensible monopoly over a period of 20 years severely affecting access to communications. The logical conclusion is that MTN in turn negatively affected economic growth during this. We only need to observe the immediate and sharp drop in prices that accompanied the advent of Swazi Mobile to understand just how much MTN was exploiting us. Take AGOA also. While manufacturing firms boomed, positively impacting the economy, what of the workers – mostly women - and the impact on their lives. Low wages, lack of policy and legal protection, and lax monitoring and oversight of business practice has led to vulnerability to HIV and AIDS, gen- Luckily for us, the new government seems determined to make a clean break with the past and invest in a new national development agenda. Much is being said about improving economic growth, with the minister of commerce, industry and trade talking about making a turnaround within two years. But economic growth does not necessarily result in poverty alleviation or reduced inequality. Eswatini is ranked amongst countries with the highest inequality in the world where the gap between the rich and the poor, already vast, continues as a steadily widening chasm. It will therefore not help the situation if economic growth will continue to line the pockets of the already rich, making them richer at the expense of the ‘have not’s’, who will continue to get poorer. Therefore, even as means are made to revitalise this sick economy, we must ensure that poverty alleviation is a core priority. As investors are wooed and business environment strengthened, there must be deliberate programming to ensure that economic recovery also translates to poverty reduction HURISWA’s commitment in 2019 Women in leadership remains an issue As 2019 starts, HURISWA commits to pursuing a vision of social justice, wherein Eswatini is a nation that fully embraces human rights - political, economic, social, cultural and environmental - without any form of discrimination. We all have a role to play in promoting the peaceful and sustainable development of the country, a role which is also recognised in the duties of the citizen outlined in section 63 of the national constitution. HURISWA aims to strengthen capacity of the country’s citizens and civil society organisations to promote and protect all forms of human rights and is therefore looking forward to working together with all relevant stakeholders, both within and outside of government to ensure that we attain the various development goals we have set ourselves. And then of course is the gender dimension. Feminisation of poverty is not just a catchy phrase – it is real. Most of the people affected by poverty are women, yet they are still expected to care and feed their families. Not only are women poor, they are the majority of the unemployed and even when employed, they occupy the lowest rungs of employment, with the lowest incomes. The informal sector, largely populated by women, is not adequately supported at the levels policy or access to finance yet it drives the economy. We also cannot overemphasise the continuing gaps in representation of women at all levels of decisionmaking. Inasmuch as there was a focus on elections this year, this is not the only sector where women’s (a) (b) (c) (d) PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER PressReader.com +1 604 278 4604 . . . . . ORIGINAL COPY ORIGINAL COPY ORIGINAL COPY ORIGINAL COPY ORIGINAL COPY ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW

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