Swazi Observer - - NATIONAL NEWS - By Si­fiso Nh­la­batsi

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.

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