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ESARO Deputy Regional Director visits Swaziland

MBABANE, Swaziland – In June, UNFPA Deputy Regional Director for the East and Southern Africa Office, Ms Justine Coulson visited Swaziland on her first mission since joining UNFPA, in what was also her first visit to the beautiful kingdom of Swaziland. The purpose of Ms Coulson mission to the country was two-fold - first, to meet with key Government officials, UNFPA Country Office staff and other development partners, on key national programme issues, and secondly to support the adoption of the SADC Model law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting Those Already in Marriage and attend the post-adoption side event on engaging SADC Parliamentarians on strategies to ensure domestication and implementation of the model law in their respective countries. 

During her mission to Swaziland, Ms Justine Coulson met with the Minister of Economic Planning and Development, HRH Prince Hlangusemphi and high level officials from the Ministry of Health, including the Principal Secretary Dr Simon Zwane and the Deputy Director Public health, Ms Rejoice Nkambule.  She also met with the Director of the National Population Unit, Ms Duduzile Dlamini and Director of the Central Statistics Office, Mr Amos Zwane. Ms Coulson also got the opportunity to meet members of the United Nations Country Team, representatives of civil society organizations and the United Nations Drought Response Team.

High on the agenda during discussions with HRH Prince Hlangusemphi was the SADC Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting Those Already in Marriage, which was to be adopted by the 39th Assembly of the SADC Parliamentary Forum on the 3rd of June 2016. In her meeting with the Minister, Ms Coulson noted the adoption of the Model Law will mark a key moment in the SADC PF’s commitment to ending child marriages in the region, as will set a standard and guidance for legislators, policymakers and other stakeholders in SADC Members States to develop or amend their national laws to eradicate child marriages and protect those already in marriage. HRH Prince Hlangusemphi welcomed Ms Coulson to the Kingdom and thanked UNFPA for its unwavering support to development initiatives in Swaziland since the 1970s. He affirmed that Government will fully support the domestication of the model law on eradicating child marriage and observed that even though the prevalence of child marriage was low in Swaziland, the Government “remains committed to get child marriage in the country to zero.”

The adoption of the Model Law will mark a key milestone in the SADC's commitment to ending child marriages in the region...

Discussions with Dr Simon Zwane, Principal Secretary of Ministry of Health and his team focused largely on the recently evaluated Safeguard Young People Programme (SYP), a regional UNFPA-supported programme implemented in Swaziland and 7 other countries in Southern Africa, whose aim is to empower adolescents and young people aged 10 to 24 to protect themselves from STIs including HIV, unintended pregnancies, early marriages, and gender-based violence, while promoting gender equitable norms and protective behaviours. Ms Coulson noted that the evaluation is showing that Swaziland is one of the countries that are showing very good evaluation results, and applauded the Ministry of Health for its commitment in the programme. Dr Zwane reaffirmed the Ministry’s support to the adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights and highlighted the importance of a multi-sector convergence to effectively address issues of adolescent health in the country.

Meeting with the UN and NGO stakeholders that form part of the Drought Response Team, Justine got an update on how partners were collaborating to address and respond to community food, nutrition, health, protection and water needs. She congratulated the country team for the seamless coordination and for having expedited country impact assessments that will help support country funding appeals. She encouraged national stakeholders to prepare themselves to submit to the recently announced appeal under the auspices to the SADC El Nino response Team.

The Deputy Regional Director also had a chance to meet and interact with young people teen club members from Bhahwini in the Shiselweni region, and members of the FLAS Youth Action Movement in Manzini. During discussions young people highlighted how being members of these clubs benefited them, as well as some of the challenges they faced. Among the benefits listed were a visible drop in teenage pregnancy; enhanced communication and public speaking skills; and stronger decision-making skills. Some of the challenges mentioned included the need for more visual training aids; initial resistance by some parents and community leaders; and the need for support to initiate income generation businesses. Ms Coulson thanked the young people for their energy and passion in what they do, and encouraged them to keep up the great work.