Over the past 6 months there has been an unprecedented global movement to challenge discrimination, violence and harassment against women. Women from across the world have taken a stand for their fundamental rights and have triggered a long overdue conversation on gender equality and sexist oppression. It is a conversation that has stretched from Hollywood award shows to the halls of Westminster. This International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the women who have brought this conversation to the forefront of public discourse, and it is also a time to draw attention to the experiences of those who have not garnered such high profile attention.
Women in Southern Africa bear an unequal burden when it comes to almost all aspects of life. They are more likely to be subject to domestic violence, to have HIV/AIDS, and to live in poverty. In many countries, women are actively and openly discriminated against on the grounds of their gender. If you would like to donate to our Gender Justice Now! appeal you can do so here.
There are many women from across the region who are working to challenge sexist laws, and patriarchal oppression. At ACTSA we seek to support these women, raising awareness of their struggle and partnering on projects to support the work they do. In our project ‘Improving Women’s Rights in Swaziland’ we partnered with the Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly (SWRA) to hold activities which mobilised 20,000 rural women. These women attended public meetings, lobbied MPs, participated in debates and attended civic education sessions, they showed the immense power of women to be agents of social change despite discrimination.
Women in Swaziland face great adversity in a deeply patriarchal system. Swazi women do not have equal legal status to their male counterparts, they cannot buy or sell property or land, or conduct legal proceedings without consent of their husbands. These misogynistic legal structures serve to uphold a discriminatory system. As we highlighted in our 2016 briefing paper ‘Women’s Rights in Swaziland’, in addition to immense legal inequity, there are high levels of gender based violence which has become normalised. There are no laws criminalising domestic violence, forced marriage, or marital rape. The Sexual Offences and Domestic Bill, which was introduced in parliament in 2009 to protect the rights of women and girls has still not been passed. In fact, last year the Deputy Prime Minister proposed to remove key clauses relating to the criminalization of incest, unlawful stalking, abduction, and indecent exposure, on the grounds that these clashed with ‘Swazi cultural practices’.
Gender-based violence is not ‘cultural’ and neither is the denial of legal rights. Donate now and help us support Swazi women to live free from harassment and discrimination.
With your support we will:
- Promote the Charter for Women’s rights in Swaziland. This includes pushing for the implementation of the long overdue Sexual Offences and Domestic Bill as well as changes to the Marriage Act (1964).
- Support the Swazi Women’s Rights movement including SWRA and other partners, by promoting education and awareness of the situation for Swazi women.
- Challenge the international community to do more to support womens rights and gender equity across Southern Africa
- Hopefully bring over a southern African women’s rights activist to the UK later this year to engage with key actors to raise the profile of women’s movements in the region and speak at our AGM.
This international women’s day let us stand together to celebrate the activist’s from Swaziland, Southern Africa and across the world who are pushing for women’s rights, gender equality and an end to sexist oppression. Click here to donate to the appeal.