Empowered individuals making positive, informed decisions
Equipping individuals with knowledge and skills empowers them to make a positive difference, not only in their own lives but in those of their families and communities. We firmly believe that education does not stop outside the school door.
Informal education projects ensure that learning continues at all ages and beyond the classroom.
- Youth Empowerment Clubs at secondary schools empower students to make informed decisions while providing basic business training
- Peer educators share their knowledge of health and other issues with their communities
- Training in financial literacy and business skills for Gone Rural artisans and other members of their communities assists individuals in setting up new businesses or strengthening existing ones
- Training in running a community library in preparation for libraries attached to our multipurpose community halls
Youth Empowerment Clubs
Only 41% of secondary school-aged children in Eswatini enrol in secondary school but less than 18% in rural areas ever complete the last year, Form Five. What is happening? The low graduation figures are not only the result of the barrier of school fees, although that is the biggest hurdle. Social problems like substance abuse, teen pregnancy and gender-based violence and abuse in the home are contributing factors, while lack of study skills hampers academic progress.
Our Youth Empowerment Clubs empower children to deal with such social and educational factors. They were set up to support recipients of the School Fees Bursary Fund but are open to other students.
What they do
- The clubs teach students about child rights, sexual and reproductive health, general health and hygiene, gender-based violence, drug and alcohol abuse. Swaziland Action Against Gender Abuse (SWAGAA) and Family Life Association of Swaziland (FLAS) are important collaborators in this area.
- Motivational and life skills are important tools in supporting schoolwork and homework—and promoting success at school—with tips on study habits, problem solving and coping strategies
- Financial literacy, entrepreneurship and leadership are central to the programme. Young adults have been trained as youth mentors and have been active in setting up and running their clubs.
Boys and girls attend separate clubs where they are able to discuss gender-sensitive topics in a relaxed atmosphere. Our partners visit to discuss specific issues and assist us in bringing speakers in response to specific requests from the students, addressing subjects as diverse as breast cancer and water conservation.
The clubs currently operate in six schools, with strong support from the school principals and teachers. While all recipients of boMake’s school fees bursaries attending the schools are expected to join the clubs, other students are welcome. Within six months of start-up, we had nearly 700 club members—a sure sign that this is a useful and relevant programme.
HIV and AIDS have been a big problem in Eswatini. Prevalence. Death rate. By 2005 adult life expectancy had dropped to the lowest in the world. It has been rising steadily since, but Swazis are all too familiar with the trauma of watching loved ones sicken and die.
Physical, sexual and emotional abuse of women and children is rife in the country.
- Orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs) and disabled children are more vulnerable to abuse than other children.
- Discipline in the home is often harsh—most children have experienced physical and psychological punishment.
- More than a third of Swazi children have experienced bullying and sexual violence, with girls especially affected. A 2007 study by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that one in three Swazi women had been sexually abused before the age of 18 and one in four had experienced physical abuse.
- Girls who have suffered sexual violence as children are four times more likely to contract HIV and other STIs.
- Although the country’s constitution declares that women should be free of any forms of abuse or discrimination, women are still treated as second-class citizens culturally and socially, and in many laws.
As mothers and grandmothers, Gone Rural artisans know everyone in their communities and understand the Swazi context of traditions like tibi tendlu (family secrets), which emphasises the importance of keeping problems within the family or the community. boMake Rural Projects trained 44 Gone Rural artisans as peer educators to offer grief counselling, sexual and reproductive health advice and abuse counselling in their communities. They were initially trained as part of our Safe Sisters project, a 3-year programme to address the trauma caused by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Eswatini and abuse in rural communities.
The peer educators continue to counsel and advise members of their communities. In future, we hope to conduct refresher training for existing peer educators and recruit and train more.