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Key findings
  • More than seven in 10 eSwatini citizens (72%) say the government is doing “fairly well” or “very well” in promoting equal treatment and opportunities for women.
  • But only three in 10 (29%) say that treatment and opportunities for women have improved over the past few years.
  • While overwhelming majorities of respondents say that women have equal access to education (91%) and gainful employment (81%), only half (52%) believe they have the same chance as men to own or inherit land.
  • More than three-quarters (78%) of citizens say women should have the same chance as men of being elected to political office.
  • Seven in 10 eSwatini citizens (71%) believe that it’s better if a woman, rather than a man, takes care of the household and children.

The government of the Kingdom of eSwatini recognizes gender inequality as an impediment to sustainable national development and has backed its constitutional guarantees of equality with a number of statutes, policies, and strategies. These include its 2004 ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (United Nations, 2012), its National Gender Policy (2010), and its 2018 Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill (Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse, 2018).

Despite these efforts, women’s rights continue to be a challenging issue in eSwatini. According to the 2014 Swaziland Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, one in five women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances (Central Statistical Office and UNICEF, 2016). Women hold only four seats (6%) in Parliament, a dramatic decline from 22% after the 2008 elections (Genderlinks, 2013).

The United Nations in Swaziland (2018) notes that “violence and abuse are a major development concern in eSwatini, profoundly affecting women and children”: About one in three women experienced some form of sexual violence as a child, and one in four experienced other forms of physical violence as a child.

Given these challenges, what are ordinary citizens’ views on gender equality? Based on findings from the most recent Afrobarometer survey in eSwatini, most citizens applaud the government’s efforts to promote women’s rights and opportunities and believe that men and women in eSwatini have equal access to education and gainful employment. But only half say women have an equal chance to own and inherit land, and most citizens still feel that it’s better for a woman, rather than a man, to be in charge of the home and the children.

Sipho Kunene

Sipho Kunene is the co-national investigator for Eswatini