Thank you all for taking the time be here today, and thank you to our guests from Kwakha Ivodza whom you will meet shortly. A year ago, the Department of State reinforced the need to more firmly embed diversity and inclusion principles in our organization, and to reflect our values in our foreign policy work at missions. As part of that effort, all U.S. missions have been encouraged to form Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Councils. You may have seen a Management Notice today asking for volunteers to serve on the Council – thank you in advance to all who have volunteered to serve.
As you know, we embrace equity and inclusion within our mission. In brief, that means we treat each other equally and with respect, and we value each individual and their contribution. We also recognize in our foreign policy work that equity and inclusion are force multipliers for peace, security, and prosperity. And equity and inclusion are fundamental components of human rights. This is the context for today’s discussion.
Gender-based violence, or GBV, is one of the most prevalent human rights abuses in the world, and in Eswatini. The Eswatini GBV Charter is a national initiative by emaSwati for emaSwati to make a lifelong pledge to end GBV within every sphere of their lives. I am honored to welcome our guests, who will help explain the Charter and the important steps we can all take to end gender-based violence now.
Stephanie, thank you for helping to organize today’s gathering. Let me now turn the podium to you for further introductions.
Thank you, Sakhile, for explaining how each of us can make a difference, right now, in our homes, in our communities, and in our everyday interactions to help end GBV.
In June 2018, Eswatini made great strides in the fight against GBV when the SODVA was enacted into law- a momentous occasion that the Embassy community had supported in various forms. This legislative win moved the needle in the right direction, yet more needs to be done, more practical steps to ensure gender equity in Eswatini. The Eswatini GBV Charter is a crucial part of the next steps towards this goal.
It is a tool—a hugely important tool—to take action against the rising tide of GBV. Every line of this pledge describes a way each of us can personally commit to ending GBV. We all have a role to play in ending GBV, by seeing it, calling it out, and declaring violence unacceptable in all its forms.
This is an opportunity for the embassy community to raise our voice against the devastating effects of GBV in the country and recommit to the movement #EndGBV together. The opportunity to think through and consider this pledge allows us to reflect on how each one of us has a role to play in the fight for gender equality. It also affords us the opportunity to recalibrate efforts and ignite new momentum for positive advancement in policy and social norms related to the scourge of GBV.
Today the U.S. Embassy is raising its voice and adding it to the chorus of voices who believe that GBV is not acceptable, ever. We work every day to break down barriers to women’s equality, counter negative gender stereotypes, and chip away at social norms that block women from participating in social, economic, and leadership activities.
I am proud of this document, and I’m equally proud that, today, the U.S. Embassy is among the first organizations to embrace the Charter and share it with our staff. My hope is that our example will pave the way for others to do the same. We encourage other organizations, institutions, and employers to do likewise, and bring this Charter to their members and employees.
This Charter addresses an issue of vital importance to emaSwati women and communities. As Eswatini is poised for what we hope will be an inclusive, productive, and consequential national dialogue, it is more important than ever to ensure that all emaSwati have a voice that is not subdued by violence of any kind.
I am encouraged to see so many people here to learn about the Charter. The U.S. Embassy is pleased to work with Kwakha Indvoza, the organizer of today’s program, on this and many other projects that address gender-based violence, empower women and girls, and help correct the power imbalance that feeds cycles of abuse and violence. This is all part of our deep commitment to help form a healthy, Eswatini that values healing, inclusivity and human rights.
We can all play a role in building a safer, more equitable and inclusive future for the next generation. To all of our staff, thank you being open to embracing this personal pledge. To KI, thank you for reminding us of the vital importance of gender equity and for bringing continued energy to the fight for gender equality for the benefit of all emaSwati.