UN Eswatini Unveils E325 000 Sponsorship for MTN Bushfire 2024

By Phiwa Sikhondze

The United Nations (UN) Eswatini has unveiled a significant sponsorship of E325 000 to the MTN Bushfire Festival to bolster their partnership aimed at mobilizing collective action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The announcement was made at a media launch held at House on Fire on 7 May 2024, where the UN Resident Coordinator in Eswatini, George Wachira, outlined the collaborative projects and thematic focus for this year’s festival.

The partnership, now in its second year, will continue to leverage the festival’s platform to promote positive social and environmental change under the campaign #BRINGYOURFIRE.

This year, the partnership has expanded to include seven UN agencies – OHCHR, UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, IOM, WFP, and UNAIDS – working together to enhance the UN’s visibility and outreach, showcase collaborative work, raise awareness on developmental issues, and provide a platform for marketing and trading products that support entrepreneurship and small microfinance enterprises.

The objectives of this partnership will be achieved through pre-festival outreach dialogues at universities across Eswatini and at the festival itself. The dialogues will cover critical themes such as youth employability, peace, justice, strong institutions, HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, food security, education, climate action, and the importance of the upcoming Summit of the Future.

The UN Bring Your Fire Zone will be a central feature of the festival, dedicated to creative advocacy and participatory activism. The zone will host live music, spoken word performances, and interactive discussions, providing a space for artists, activists, and socially attuned organizations to come together and raise awareness on pressing global and local issues.

Explaining how the festival aligns with the UN, the Director of the MTN Bushfire Festival, Jiggs Thorne, noted that the festival by its nature has the power to bring a collective response to positive social change.

“When working on the partnership with the UN, we had to work on how we can leverage the transformational part of the arts to be a change maker. Arts have always been the vehicle for communication for change and have been that transformation tool. ‘Bring Your Fire’ speaks to a collective response to positive social change. It is a platform to harness the arts to engage a range of issues,” he said.

In his remarks, Wachira emphasized the alignment of the UN and Bushfire with the SDGs and the importance of SDG 16 – Peace, justice, and strong institutions. He highlighted the transformative recommendations adopted by the Kingdom of Eswatini following the SDG Summit in September 2023 and the role of the upcoming Summit of the Future in addressing global challenges.

“The UN-Bushfire partnership resonates deeply with the efforts to build sustainable communities around the world. Through this partnership, the UN is bringing its fire and spotlighting both global issues that impact us, while at the same time engaging with specific local issues such as empowering the youth, safeguarding rights, and leveraging technology and innovation to drive the SDGs. This collaboration not only amplifies our outreach but also provides a dynamic platform for advocacy and action,” he said.

The festival’s BYFZ stage, sponsored by the UN, will feature six stalls showcasing the work of UN partners, including government, parastatals, and civil society organizations. The stage will also provide a platform for UN partners to market and trade their products, increasing their exposure and knowledge about entrepreneurship and small microfinance enterprises.

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