‘PUSH FOR IMPORTANT LAWS TO BE PASSED’
US Ambassador Lisa Peterson has urged women members of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) to fight for enactment into law of legislations such as the Marriages Bill and Matrimonial Bill, among others.
The ambassador was speaking during the launch of the TUCOSWA Women Structure Campaign on Wednesday at the Global Village in Manzini. The campaign, themed ‘Press for consciousness on women’s rights being fundamental human rights #Break the socio-political barriers’ was launched in the presence of different union representatives under the TUCOSWA banner.
Addressing the unionists, Peterson started by pointing out that the action around the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act shows that progress is possible when policy makers, legislators, service providers, and civil society work together in a comprehensive way. She said a few months after its enactment, they are already reading several reports in the news each week of people being reported, charged, and convicted under the new law.
Peterson said there is a great deal of work to be done to sensitise women, men, police, magistrates and communities around the country to know their rights and responsibilities under the SODV Act. She said she was deeply encouraged to see a number of organisations, including the Government of Eswatini, the U.S Embassy, UNICEF, TUCOSWA, WILSA and other civil society organisations taking on that task. She said this experience must serve as a model for other legislation that needs to be passed, including the Marriage Bill, the Matrimonial Property Bill and amendments to the Interstate Succession Act.
The ambassador said as gender activists move forward to advance some of these policies and legislative changes, she has some few suggestions to propose. She said she noted that during discussions, TUCOSWA also noted that there are many national, regional, and international laws and conventions that have been passed or ratified but still need to be ‘domesticated’’ or reflected in Eswatini’s laws.
“Focus on a few discreet opportunities within this list as a starting point, for example, implementation of the SODV; passing the Marriages or Matrimonial Property Bills,’’ Peterson stated. She urged the TUCOSWA Women Structure to also focus on creating opportunities for women’s leadership at local levels to build a larger and stronger pool of women candidates for the next elections.
She said the South African Litigation Centre (SALC), with funding from the European Union and support from multiple NGOs in Eswatini, has authored a report with a number of recommendations that can be used as a roadmap for the women’s work. The US Ambassador also urged TUCOSWA Women Structure to be realistic and creative. She pointed out that Eswatini is facing a dire fiscal crisis, and now is not the ideal time to make a proposal that will require significant financial resources. Peterson said she always tells her staff that they have to find neutral ways to advance their strategic goals. She said on the other hand, now is the time to forge links with the new Cabinet as it seems energised, ready to root out corruption and focus on serving the people of Eswatini.
“You have a new Parliament with members who are eager to make their mark, including proposing legislation themselves rather than waiting for it to come from the Cabinet. Work with them. Advance your policy priorities with them,” Peterson urged the TUCOSWA Women Structure. She added that they must hold the parliamentarians accountable. She said they must find ways to do this in collaboration with other parts of civil society.
Peterson said the Women Structure must learn from successes of their colleagues at WLSA, SWAGAA and Kwakha Indvodza in their work on the SODV Act. Peterson urged the women of TUCOSWA to continue advocating for policies that will create a future where all of Eswatini’s women are safe in their workplace, on the street, and in their homes. Meanwhile, TUCOSWA’s Bongiwe Mango, when unpacking the theme of the campaign, said they would demand the passing of the Marriage Bill and lobby for Gender Based Violence Conventions, among other things. She said they would also look at the national gender policy that is being reviewed. She said they would also ensure that the SODV Act is properly budgeted for and implemented.
URGES: US Ambassador Lisa Peterson delivering her speech during the launch of the TUCOSWA Women Structure Campaign at Global Village on Wednesday.