Minister attends fundraising event for Swazi single mothers

Several prominent guests attended a fundraising event for the Swaziland Single Mothers’ Organisation (SWASMO) at the Greater Alpha Restaurant in Manzini, Swaziland, on May 28, including Swaziland’s Minister for Tourism, Macford Sibanze.

Macford Sibanze, who himself was raised by a single mother, and in whose constituency SWASMO primarily operates, was one of the key speakers at the event that raised money to continue and strengthen SWASMO’s self help groups for single mothers. SWASMO encourages and teaches self-reliance, mobilisation and education amongst Swaziland’s vulnerable and stigmatised single mothers.

Macford Sibanze’s speech focused on the importance of education as a way out of poverty and on the value of believing in one’s own potential.

“I was raised in a shack, but I realised that the only way to break through the sticks and mud was to study very hard”, he said.  “I did well at school which enabled me to get a bursary and go on to be the man that I am today. All of you single parents in the audience must keep on working hard to ensure that your kids go to school.”

“Everybody can be great, regardless of any painful circumstances,” Macford Sibanze concluded, “not least single parents.”

Another speaker, Nonhlanhla Dlamini, the MP for Ludzeludze and former Director of the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse, insisted that the problem of single parenthood was complex and that the present handling of the issue in Swaziland was insufficient.

“We need to create a support system for children while their single parents are at work, to provide parenting skills to single parents and teach them how to balance work and family obligations,” she said. “And it is important to help the children understand what they are going through. Parents need to explain to children when there is a divorce or death of a spouse. It is important that single parents make time for their children despite their busy schedule”.

Nonhlanhla Dlamini also suggested that it was important for NGOs such as SWASMO to develop good networking channels with donors to ensure additional funds. “I will help you help write projects and approach donors,” she said.

The event was described as a “success” by SWASMO’s project coordinator, Beatrice Bitchong. “We were able to raise more than the target amount,” she said.

“The proceeds of the fund raising will be used to strengthen the existing self help groups and create more groups. In the future SWASMO plans to create a counselling and supportive system for single mothers and teen mothers as well as vocational training and advocacy.”

Such measures are without doubt important steps in ensuring the welfare of single mothers in Swaziland in particular, and women in Swaziland in general. But they are not necessarily sufficient without government involvement.

Swaziland is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that requires that signatories “shall accord to women equality with men before the law,” and the 2005 constitution that promises equal treatment for men and women.

Even so, Swazi women are still heavily discriminated against in Swaziland. They are for instance legally subordinate to men in both civil and traditional marriages and they can not get a bank loan or own property without the written consent of their husbands.

And single mothers and teen mothers are doubly discriminated against. They receive no government aid or grants in Swaziland and often receive little or no help from their families or communities, even though teenage mothers account for over a third of all pregnancies in Swaziland. When they are found to be pregnant they are often expelled from school and ostracised and stigmatised by their neighbours, communities and families.

Read more:

Swaziland: uprising in the slip-stream of North Africa

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