US Ambassador to Swaziland Lisa Peterson has said inequality survivors including women and minority groups have got to be applauded for movements that seek equal treatment and the pursuit of equal opportunities challenge patriarchal norms while calling for coordinated efforts.
“Swaziland’s Constitution declares that “All persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and shall enjoy equal protection of the law. Nevertheless, this great nation, like the U.S., was built upon a patriarchal foundation that has created a legacy of inequality for women and minority groups. Therefore, we must applaud and fully support the willingness of victims and survivors – including men, women, and gender non-conforming individuals – to forcefully speak out against this conduct. We must support their ability to seek redress,” she said.
…we are still far too often shocked by stories of violence and abuse that we hear in the press…US Ambassador to Swaziland Lisa Peterson
This was on the Thursday of 7th December 2017 during the Human Rights Day commemoration in honor of the late Dr Joshua Mzizi where she was an honoured guest speaker.
In Mzizi’s remembrance, since 2005, the Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO) and the Council of Swaziland Churches annually reflect on his legacy where human rights activism is concerned in the country by convening a lecture of human rights activists to deliberate and reflect on challenges and milestones of human rights based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948. The day saw speakers from the Council of Swaziland Churches, CANGO and an LGBTI activist among the speakers of the day emphasising on this year’s theme of standing up for equality, justice and human dignity.
Internationally, Human Rights Day is commemorated on 10 December of each year since 1950 when the UDHR set 30 standard human rights after the Second World War to avert further hostilities.
Ambassador Peterson said although the United States of America came out with the Constitution in the 18th century, (September 17, 1787) still then it excluded women and people of color “written by a group of white men who saw the world through an 18th century lens”.
Reflecting further on the American history, Peterson said the Seneca Falls Convention (1848) declared that all men and women were created equal and called for “women’s autonomy, better education, and viable employment opportunities for women” whereas in 1920, women in America achieved the right to vote while people of color won their voting right “after decades of bloodshed and turmoil”.
“Both these movements had their high-profile boycotts, marches, and rallies, but they also relied on hundreds of individual actions – from being the first woman to be admitted to practice law to creating citizenship schools that helped African American pass literacy tests in order to vote – that built the alliances and social awareness that made each next small victory possible.”
Peterson said although Swaziland was breaking the male dominance over the years, it was still shocking to see “stories of violence and abuse that we hear through the press” whereby people have seemingly become complacent and by GBV when stories of passion killings suffered by women as a comprehensive domestic and violence law is still missing.
“One of the reasons we are still engaged in this fight [for equality] is because empowerment can be seen as a threatening concept for those already enjoying positions of power – whether they are the head of a corporation or the head of a household… So it falls largely to those seeking an equal place in these systems to become disruptors – to change how people think, behave, do business, or learn.”
“Businesses, civil society, traditional leaders, government, international allies, churches, and citizens all have a role in raising awareness around this issue. Coordinated action is critical to success. Many in this room have done incredible work on this issue, but we must all ensure that we are supporting their efforts, both to bring more volume to the effort but also to ensure that their efforts, both to bring volume to the effort but also that the people and organisations that have been doing the heaviest lifting don’t burn out. Our collective voices and strategic actions have the power to restore human dignity, render justice, and ultimately realize both our Constitutions’ ideals,” Peterson said.
(c) 2017 CANGO Communications