Swazi faith organisations share plans for 2012
Mbabane, Swaziland – As members of eight Swazi religious organisations hold hands in a band that also includes leaders of civil society organisations, government representatives and members of Swazi parliament, one thing is clear: unity in diversity!
On Friday, November 18th, Swaziland joined the world in commemorating the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children. The initiative is driven by eight faith organisations, namely, the Council of Swaziland Churches, League of Churches, Seventh Day Adventist, Swaziland Conference of Churches, Nazareth Baptist Church, National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is, the Islamic Faith and the Church Forum on HIV and AIDS. It is supported by the office of the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) through the National Children’s Coordination Unit and UNICEF. Building on the successful inaugural commemoration and the pledge they signed last year, this year the faith groups met to share progress on how each had performed over the past twelve months, highlighting success stories, challenges and plans for 2012.
Deputy Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, who was represented by Minister Winnie Magagula, congratulated the eight organisations for launching an initiative that embraces all religions in a society where religion is strongly founded on different principles, practices and doctrines. “The eight groups present here today must be commended for abandoning their religious differences,” the DPM said. He said he had been further encouraged by the commitment of the groups in the implementing the plans they developed last year. He noted that the groups, in respective constituencies, had incorporated child protection into their programmes. Different speakers who represented the organisations pleaded with government and other partners to support them as they roll out their programmes in 2012 and beyond.
Masuku reiterated the government’s commitment to passing laws that protect children in the country, highlighting in particular, that two bills – the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill 2009 and the Child Welfare and Protection Bill 2010 – were currently before the House of Senate, the upper chamber of the country’s parliament. Masuku challenged other stakeholders to emulate the religious community’s initiative. “The Government continues to challenge all stakeholders to play their part if we are to win the war. Parents, teachers and other community structures must join forces to prevent and report violence against our children.” He issued a stern warning to perpetrators of violence against children. “We are closing in on you and soon there will be no place to hide. We are cleaning our schools, homes, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and every other place, to ensure that our children are allowed to be children.”
Dumsani Mnisi, the national director of Save the Children, spoke on behalf of the national children consortium, a multi-sectoral body which deals with issues of children. He called upon parents to ensure that good family values are embraced at home, which he said, was an important starting point towards creating a conducive environment from which children also will learn to respect the rights of other children. He also called upon parents and communities to do all in their power to create an environment in which children can grow and develop. Mnisi also paid tribute to the faith organisations for playing a part in the initiative.
Dr Jama Gulaid, UNICEF Representative implored the faith organisations to use their authority and influence to eradicate violence against children. He thanked the government for its leadership, particularly in drafting legislation that would protect children from violence and abuse. He further lauded civil society organisations for lending technical support to the initiative.
Consultative discussions and trainings were conducted across all religious groups, facilitated by local civil society organisations working with children, including UNICEF and the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA).