21 April 2011

Legal Aid- Woohoo

I am putting together an application for a blogging competition and I took a look through old blogs. My sister tell s me to be more positive about the work that I have put out and my experience in Swaziland as a whole- not in terms of my enjoyment but in terms of my achievements.

So in reflection, I realise that there is a huge project that I have not written about. This project took up my energy for most of November and early December.

In Swaziland there is no legal aid. The Government doesn't have the money for it, and Swaziland is not a socialist state generally. At the request of a few legal persons in the country, I started to think about what the steps are for establishing legal aid. Step 1- what would legal aid look like, especially funding wise. In order to get that done there needs to be a feasibility study. So early November I began liaising like I have never done before, between the UN offices and the Government offices, in order to gain support for a study to be completed.

Fast forward mid December, right when I finished up working with SWAGAA. And the UNDP had secured a lump of money for a consultant to get the work done. Success.

I was then fortunate enough to interview for the position via telephone a few weeks ago. We shall see what happens. It is a hugely big deal for Swaziland. If the study is done properly- with as much support from funding bodies and legal professionals as possible - then the beginnings of legal aid will be-a-happening.

I am proud to be a part of that.
And would love to see it to the end.... for the number of years that it would take

16 April 2011

Turmoil and Hope for Swaziland

Faithful readers,

This blog posting should read like an apology posting. I fell off the blog-o-sphere sometime back in November. A combination of tumultuous times and personal achievements marked my sad blogging demise. I learned what it is to fall hard in the small Kingdom of Swaziland, realizing that it was not my imagination making me think that everyone knew what was happening- Swaziland really is that small.

I am reminded of the commonality of the human experience with the tumultuous and hopeful times that Swaziland is going through. I have been virtually glued to the computer with my hourly updates from the Swaziland Solidarity Network as the labour unions called for country wide democracy protests in the spirit of Egypt and Libya. The protests were called off after two days of country wide protest and violent clashes.

I was fortunate enough to attend a talk given by a Swazi human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, at Amnesty International, Ottawa office, on the 12th April. Speaking with a 'fellow' Swazi so far from home hits home for me how involved I am in legal reform in Swaziland and just how small the world is. I also realize that I am rather moderately opinion-ed regarding violence as a tool for democratic change. My concerns are with the safety of the average Swazi.

If you get a chance, take a look at this statement from Amnesty International and send away the pressure letter to Swaziland Prime Minister, Dr. Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini.

02 November 2010

Rural Reality

Saturday morning my colleague was going out to a rural community for work with one of the ‘Girls Empowerment Clubs.’ The clubs are in 8 schools in Swaziland, they are an opportunity for girls to get together, learn and discuss issues that affect them. One of the girls in the Ngcoseni High School club had mobilized her co-members to go and help a Go-Go (grandmother) who was living in poverty.

By the time we got to the rural community, Mankayane, the 20 girls had collected firewood for the family. They were waiting beside the pile of wood and the food supplies they had bought with their own money. I have never been involved with the girls clubs, but as soon as I got out of the car I got a hug from every single girl there. Their energy was fantastic.

I do not think that I can properly describe the poverty that was in that homestead without sounding like I am sensationalising the situation. There were two Go-Gos, wearing tight tight belts to silence their hungry bellies, a granddaughter who was lying in bed sick (looked very much like AIDS), and her two children, about 2 and 4, one with no clothes and the older one ashamed of her little sisters presentation, trying to find some clothes for her.

I was designated photographer for the event. The girls were very excited at the possibility of getting their photograph into the newspaper. They cleaned the fire pit, swept the yard, borrowed pots from neighbours, cooked some food and washed the two girls. One of the girls from the club, Samkelisiwe, filled a container with water, washed the 2 year old, was given a dress from her 4 year old sister who was more then willing to take the love and moisturised the 2 year from head to toe. I’ve attached that photograph, which I call ‘Love.’ The experience was simply amazing. We at SWAGAA are working on getting together that story for the newspaper.

27 October 2010

Property Rights Again....

This is a link to an article that I provided comments for months ago. I have just found out that it was published also on the UN Refugee Agency website (the UNHCR), which is huge.

Take a look at it HERE. The article is 5 months old now, but still very relevant. I spoke to Doo Aphane a few weeks back about the case, she is a human rights activist and lawyer, who wants to buy a plot of land across the road from her house, and so brought the test case before the High Court of Swaziland. It was her feeling that there is not enough support for the women's right to own property movement, from the feminist activist community in Swaziland.

It is my feeling that too much of the rhetoric surrounding womens rights issues focus on abstract discussions about rights, and less on concrete manifestations of what a stronger framework of rights would mean for a woman. See my last blog post with the link to Just Governance Group writings. Property rights are a key area for the attainment of womens rights.

26 October 2010

Awesome: proud of my writing

A link to my latest writing for the Just Governance Group, who are of course doing fantastic work. Take a look through their web page if you get a chance, it is full of interesting work.

For my latest writing peice I wrote about the issue with culture and the adoption of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill. Which has still not been adopted. I have a meeting tomorrow with Nonhlanhla Dlamini, the previous director of SWAGAA and now MP. I am hoping she will be able to give me an update on the progress of the Bill. Which has been ten years in the making. Come on.