News from SWASMO

Yearly report from SWASMO 2012

9. November 2012

It is the end of the year again and SWASMO’s founder and the members are working hard to ensure that young single women are considered in Swaziland. We do recognize that unwanted pregnancies should be reduced but at the same time we believe that those who found themselves involuntary having children should not be rejected and banned from their community and their innocent children should be taken care of.

SWASMO current interim committee has developed a committee. It has been decided in the constitution that SWASMO will be a membership non governmental organization. There are two types of memberships: single mothers aged from 14 to 35 years old and SWASMO’s sympathizers who are any one else, regardless of age, sex or professional background who are concerned with young single mothers’ problems. Sympathizers should register with any amount that they give as a donation and single mothers should register with a very small amount which is currently R 5 (less than 1 dollar)

SWASMO’s constitution defines young Single mothers in the context of Swaziland as:

•    women aged 14 to 35
•    women of the above range age who have children but who are not married;
•    Women of the above range age with children who are married but the husbands are not working (in the context of Swaziland, in such cases the burden of taking care of the children often rest on the mothers)
•    Women with children who are married but who have to take care of their children because their employee husbands do not care about due to girl friends or any other problem like dinking;
•    women of the above range age who are widow;
•    women of the above age group who are not married and are taking care of their relatives (nephews, nieces, etc) because their parents have passed away.

It has been decided that SWASMO will be governed by a committee of at least 10 members from which 5 members shall be single mothers as defined above and the rest should be sympathizers. There should be a general annual meetings after every two years. SWASMO is currently governed by a committee of 9 people (8 single mothers and one sympathizer). The current committee is composed of 3 simple members and the following office bearers:

–         Chair person: Beatrice Bitchong (sympathizer and founder, with social work and public health background, currently is a periodic NGOs consultant);
–         Vice chairperson: Nomkhosi Dlamini (single mother, 23 years, working with communities background, currently unemployed);
–         Secretary: Sibongile Magongo: (Single mother,  31 years, high school, currently unemployed);
–         Vice Secretary: Cebile Mdziniso (single mother, 28 years, adult literacy diploma, currently unemployed);
–         Treasurer: Nozipho Mamba (Married but considered as single mother according to the constitution definition as the husband is not working, 32 years, administrative and accounting background, currently unemployed);
–         Vice treasurer: Celest Pacull, (not married, no child, but is considered as single mother as she is the one taking care of her siblings, 22 years, hair dressing background).

The committee has decided that each member should give a weekly fee of R 5 for SWASMO’s activities. The committee meets weekly for now and will be meeting later on monthly or quarterly as SWASMO evolves.

This year SWASMO has received in kind donations in terms of clothes for men, women and children, bags, hats, caps, fabrics, babies clothes, children’s books from Nazarene Church from Canada. These clothes have been distributed to approximately 30 low income single mothers with their children. (picture, children with book and adults)

SWASMO has also received crocheting material from the Bethany church of Oklahoma  (United States of America). The material has been given to one of SWASMO’s group and the group members have started the crocheting. (picture)

SWASMO currently has created 2 additional groups of 10 members each, composed exclusively of young single mothers from 14 to 35 years old. For the next year SWASMO’s committee has decided to start with simple annual planning of their activities until the group is strong enough to develop a 3 years strategic planning with the help of external experts. The committee is currently developing the planning of activities for the year 2013.

SWASMO is taking this opportunity to thank all their partners especially Bethany Church of Oklahoma (USA), Canadian Nazarene Church, Foundation for social and economic justice, Afrika Contact and all of local individual supporters.

Swasmo: Focus on young single mothers, organisational structure and fundraising

8. February 2012

Women in Swaziland are heavily discriminated against, both by law and by custom. According to the former, women in effect have the status of minors and cannot get a bank loan without the consent of their husbands. According to the latter, women can be fined for wearing trousers by traditional authorities, nearly half of Swazi men believe it is okay to beat a woman, and two thirds of young women have experienced sexual violence of some sort.

But young single mothers are even worse off than the average women in Swaziland. Teenage mothers account for over a third of all pregnancies in Swaziland, but they receive little or no help from the government, their families or communities. On the contrary, when they are found to be pregnant they are often expelled from school and ostracised and stigmatised by their neighbours, communities and families.

Swaziland Single Mothers’ Organisation (SWASMO), the only organisation to work specifically with young single mothers, was formed in 2009 in an attempt to help and mobilise young single mothers in Swaziland.

The initial idea was to form self-help to promote self-reliance, mutual support, mobilisation and education to try and improve the position and consciousness of single mothers. But mobilising the young single mothers and raising funds has proven harder than anticipated.

“Most young single mothers have a fatalistic view of themselves and society and do not believe that life can be any different or better than it is presently,” says SWASMO’s founder and project coordinator, Beatrice Bitchong. “And even amongst other women, there is resentment towards the young single mothers.”

As for fundraising, Maternity Worldwide, a Danish organisation that works with health care, financial security and protection for women and children in Africa, had contacted SWASMO in 2011 to discuss plans for supporting a self-help project financially.

“But after an appraisal in November 2011 that saw representatives of the Danish organization visit SWASMO in Swaziland, several gaps were identified,” says Beatrice Bitchong. “We need to be clear on the target group, as it was found that the existing self help groups are made in majority of elder women who still have a strong stigma against young women. And we need to establish a well-defined organizational structure.  Focusing on closing these gaps was found to be a prerequisite for effective self-help projects output by SWASMO.”

But Beatrice also has the solution to these challenges. “Having young single mothers as our main target group and working to establish a well defined organizational structure is what we will be focusing on in the future. I have surrounded myself with some committed young women and we are trying to build a structure that has a clear focus on young single mothers and transforming SWASMO into a membership organisation. We will be coming up with ideas for a strategic plan and project in the near future.”

As for funding, the organisation, that has until now mainly had to rely on money from its volunteer workers, is planning a few small fundraising events, ad is considering introducing membership fees.
But as Swaziland is a poor country where two thirds of the population survive on less than a dollar a day, and where the government has trouble even paying its civil servants, Beatrice Bitchong is aware that she must also look elsewhere for funding. “We are interested in other donors who can help us strengthen the organizational capacity of SWASMO and help Swaziland’s young single mothers. They need it more than most,” she says.

Swasmo’s first fundraising dinner

28 May 2011

The event took place at Greater Alpha Restaurant at 7 o’clock with a word of welcome by Mrs. Kamalandua who was the master of ceremonies. Then Swasmo coordinator Beatrice Bitchong introduced the organization from the start in 2009 to 2011. SWASMO started with a self-help group project in 2009 in which women are put together to reflect on their situation and take action for their lives. SWASMO then train them in leadership skills, negotiation skills, lending skills and training in health and legal issues.

Beatrice Bitchong insisted on creating a conducive and non judgmental environment that will allow women to explore themselves and explore their external environment. In delivering our services we need values of respect, acceptance and unconditional positive regard to create such a conducive environment. Beatrice mentioned that the proceeds of the fund raising will be used to strengthen the existing self help groups and create more groups. In the future, Beatrice said that SWASMO plans to create a counseling and supportive system to single mothers and teen mothers as well as vocational training and advocacy.

Make Sylvia, who is the chairperson of Makholweni self-help group, also introduced the group and the activities that they have done such as an achaar project, a garden project, etc. She said they plan in the future to divide the group in three small subgroups and that each subgroup will have a specific activity for a smooth management of the group.

The guest speaker was Honorable Nonhlanhla Dlamini who is the MP for the Ludzeludze Region. She is also a former SWAGAA Director. Honorable  Nonhlanhla introduced her speech by mentioning that the problem is more complex than we think, the issue is not only about single mothers but about single parents in general. She said that both men and women who are single parents should be considered. She then continued by defining single parents  as parents with kids who are not married or parents who are separated by a divorce or by death. She also insisted that single parents are also those who are married but only one spouse take care of the children.

She insisted in considering the problem of single parents, including single mothers, as a problem that concern all of us as anyone can loose a spouse through separation or death.

She said that she had herself been raised by a single mother. She knows the challenges that single mothers go through because she has experienced it herself with her mother. She suggested possible solutions such as creating a support system for children while their single parents are at work, providing parenting skills to single parents and teaching them in balancing work and children.

Given that SWASMO is a young organization, she insisted on hard work, integrity and passion from SWASMO’s leaders. She also advised SWASMO’s leaders to organize an executive board with influential members who can help to develop good networking with donors and she gave herself available 100 % to the organization to help write projects and raise funds.

The Honorable MP, Minister Macford Sibanze, whose constituency Swasmo is working in, was also present at the event. In his speech, he shared his personal testimony as a child of a single mother. He said that his father was his mother, his grand mother and his uncle. He was raised in a shack but he knew from a very young age that school was the only option to escape his poor living conditions. He did so well as school that he was able to get bursary and be the man and Minister that he is today. He encouraged the self help group members who were in the audience to keep on working hard to ensure that their kids go to school.

The event was spiced by some entertainment from the self-help groups and ended at 9o’Clock by the Dinner. The event was very successful as we were able to raise more than the target amount.

New hope for stigmatised single mothers in Swaziland

11 May 2011

“I really have big hope for SWASMO now,” says Beatrice Bitchong, Project Coordinator at the Swaziland Single Mothers Organization (SWASMO).

SWASMO, a volunteer organisation, is the only organisation to work with the many heavily stigmatised single mothers in Swaziland, a group that accounts for over a third of all pregnancies in Swaziland but who receive no government support. When their families find out that these women are pregnant, they are often expelled from school and ostracised and stigmatised by their neighbours, communities and families.

SWASMO’s self-help groups therefore promote self-reliance, mutual support, mobilisation and education to try and improve the position and consciousness of single mothers by mobilising and educating poor single mothers in the poorest areas of Manzini, Swaziland’s main industrial town, to become self-reliant, self-aware and healthy.

“The projects are going quite well,” says Beatrice Bitchong. She says that SWASMO also held a successful march in the rural areas to celebrate International Woman’s Day together with the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice and plan to hold a fundraising dinner party on the 28th of May at the Greater Alpha restaurant in Manzini.

And Maternity Worldwide, a Danish organisation that works with health care, financial security and protection for women and children in Africa, recently contacted SWASMO to discuss plans for a self-help project. “This is quite exciting and encouraging,” says Beatrice.

SWASMO 2010 Christmas party report

7 December 2010

The Swaziland Single Mothers organization held its first Christmas party at Manzini North Constituency, located at Makholweni, with an attendance of approximately 75 people. The colourful event, that included songs, dances, poems and speeches, took place on Saturday 4th of December 2010 from 10 am to 4 pm. The event was organized by SWASMO’s members, who contributed 50 % of all the funds used for the event.  We also had the support (financial and in kind) of the Constituency leaders.

During the event, SWASMO members had the opportunity to showcase their skills in dance, singing and poems. Sylvia Masimula, the chairperson of Makholweini group, mentioned that during 2010, the group was able to run three main activities: a garden, handycraft and artchaar making. From these activities they were able to generate R 6000. She said in the year to come they are planning to continue with these activities and increase the income. The chairperson from Kakhoza group said that they have being able to raise R1300 and are planning to start a laundry project in their area next year. The groups have stated that they have learned a lot about planning, simple management and social relationship skills. They said they now have a better understanding of their environment and were very impressed to realize that there were actually funds allocated to similar groups in the Constituency. Information they did not have before joining the groups.

Also attending the event were the Member of Parliament for Manzini North Constituency, Macford Sibandze, and the Constituency Chief (Invuna). The MP and the Chief were very impressed by the work done by the groups and urged SWASMO to remain in the Constituency. Indeed the MP has confirm that there are funds in the Constituency to support the groups activities and that he will try these funds will be allocated in the year to come to proposals that the groups will be submit.

Miss Sebenzile, the administrator of the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice, who is also a member of SWASMO, spoke as a motivational speaker of the event. She mentioned the importance of women coming together to tackle their own problems and mainly blamed culture as a cause of women miseries in Swaziland. She gave words encouragement and appreciation to the groups and SWASMO in general.

The event wrapped up a 4 O’clock with refreshment and dance.

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