Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Empowering women: Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Sudan

SWEEP, the Swazi Women's Economic Empowerment Project, has been working to enable to profit from their change of status in law. Until last year they could neither own property or open a bank account.

The programme has helped in the formation of 32 co-operatives with 47,000 beneficiaries. They give instruction to the women on how to set up a group and how to develop an enterprise.

The projects themselves are thought up and funded by the women themselves, anything from handicrafts, through animal rearing, to growing herbs. The aim is to free women from abusive situations, and from grinding poverty.

In Sierra Leone, new laws have been passed to ban forced marriages and abuse against wives, and to allow women to inherit property.

The law for registration of customary marriage states that both parties must be over 18 and both must give their consent.

The act banning domestic abuse has very broad definitions of violence: "physical or sexual abuse, economic abuse, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, harassment, conduct that harms, endangers the safety, health or well-being of another person or undermines the privacy and dignity of another person".

The inheritance of property means that women, whose husbands have died, will not be left destitute by members of the extended family making claims on his property.

In Sudan, the Girls' Education Movement has been set up in an effort to combat the teenage pregnancy rate which is linked to the high drop-out rate of girls from education. It is a peer-to-peer group to encourage children and their parents to go to school. The longer girls stay at school, the more they are able to make informed decision and the less likely they are to become pregnant.

In addition, the government has brought in a policy of free education. This on its own may account for the increase in enrolment for girls from 17% to 37%.

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