By Futhie Tembe
ACTING CEO- ESWATINI NATIONAL PROVIDENT FUND
I write today as a mother, a sister, an aunt, a member of society and a corporate leader to lend my voice against the rise of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the country. While GBV is prevalent, it is not inevitable; it is preventable, and that starts with me and your supporting efforts against the abuse. It begins with each of us investing and uniting to end GBV in all our spaces. It is therefore befitting that this year’s theme for the 16 days of activism against GBV is UNiTE! Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls.
There is incredible power in united voices and efforts against any actions seeking to threaten humankind. We are stronger together against anything. This unity should also be cross-sectorial, leaving no societal stakeholders behind.
The survivors of GBV are not just names of unknown people. As the numbers rise, we now recognize the names. This is a national issue we can all play a part in alleviating, as we have done so brilliantly with any other crisis we have met as a nation. We are resilient and have the capacity within us to invest and unite against GBV.
I also applaud and appreciate the nation’s wise and always visionary leadership for their firm call against GBV as His Majesty King Mswati III has called for the country to unite and end it, and so has the Right Honourable Prime Minister Russell Mmiso Dlamini and the Deputy Prime Minister Thulisile Dladla. Such calls truly inspire us to continue uniting and investing against GBV.
A quote by Kofi Annan sets a good preamble for my message as he firmly states, “Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality and development.” Indeed, the GBV incidents we read in the papers are not only harrowing and heart-breaking, but they are also shameful and threaten to undo the great deal of progress many have made in the country’s socio-economic development.
In terms of practical solutions, we need to start within each of the four walls we live in, stretch to the people we interact with, and have these conversations in the workplace. We need to show empathy towards survivors of GBV and provide care and support for them. As a woman, I deeply empathise with the devastating effects of GBV on not only women but the society at large. Violence negatively affects women’s physical and mental health and well-being at all stages of their lives and impacts their professional development and economic empowerment. Therefore, my message will unpack three key areas that can help fight GBV in the country.
Investing In Mental Health, Wellness
In line with this year’s theme, there are calls for investments to end GBV. One of the key focal areas needs to be scaled-up approaches to wellness programmes and mental health. A paper by Global Health Action, 2014, noted that empathy, self-esteem, compassion, emotional regulation and resilience, stress management, relationship building, and challenging problematic social norms are crucial in the primary prevention of GBV. While the journal was published years ago, their findings are strikingly relevant in the present day. Furthermore, competencies such as rapport building, group processing, emotional nurturing, modelling, and the prevention of vicarious trauma among staff are essential for the successful implementation of GBV primary prevention programmes.
As a corporate leader and manager, I believe every workplace needs to invest in the wellness of staff and programmes that can be replicated in the family context.
Committing To Denounce GBV
The perpetrators of GBV live within the same society we are in. We need to engage each other to take a stand to never one day be accused of GBV. This starts with you and me speaking out against GBV at our workplaces, churches, and social gatherings and inculcating a culture of zero use of violence to solve issues. We need to invest the same time we use to discuss social and professional issues to denounce GBV. Ask yourself, when was the last time you reminded friends, colleagues and family about the importance of being anti-GBV to have a society that is productive and functional? This call aligns with the 2023 theme advocacy objective, which states that we should take a stand publicly, engaging in activities and events to raise awareness of anti-GBV in our communities.
Let us play our part.
ENPF’S PLEDGE AGAINST GBV
While I have stated my views on GBV, the organization I serve is also passionately and actively against all forms of GBV. As an organisation dedicated to the well-being of our staff and our community, we are unwavering in our stance against gender-based violence. We believe that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and call upon every member of society to join us in cultivating a culture of respect, equality and safety for all. We believe in working together to end GBV and create a more just and harmonious society where one feels valued and safe.
ENPF has an active Wellness Programme, and we continuously invest in ensuring that our staff are supported on all the key pillars of the wheel of wellness. The eight dimensions of the Wellness Wheel are interconnected to achieve balance and personal well-being and assist in preventing GBV and mitigating its effects on our staff or anyone connected to them. The dimensions include emotional, financial, physical and occupational wellness, to name but a few,
In conclusion, we pray that through these 16 days of activism against GBV, we will witness fewer, if not zero, incidents of such violence. We also hope that beyond the 16 days, each member of society will play a crucial role in fighting GBV in all spaces they are in.
I sincerely thank the Eswatini Observer for providing me space to lend my voice against GBV. Together, united, we can invest daily to end GBV as such violence is not inevitable; it is preventable.