Gender Based Violence Training of Trainers Workshop

The training was upgraded to the Royal Swazi Spa, with hot pool, swimming pool, fountains and golf course. The hotel is situated in Ezulwini, meaning “Paradise Valley” in siSwati. Very apt.

Taking a walk in the early morning before breakfast, I noticed that some caddies were warming up on the golf course. On Tuesday mornings they are entitled to a free round. The setting in the valley was magical, but caddy David seemed sad. He told me that not enough people were playing golf. A round costs  about £20. I asked if anyone famous had played golf there. He looked blank. “How about Tiger Woods, Ernie Els?” He looked even more blank. I left him by the first tee and went into breakfast.

The background music in the dining room was loud and intrusive. Think Mantovani strings playing a medley from the Sound of Music, followed by “Stranger on the Shore”. Sixties music for Sixties food.

A white man with tattoos all over his arms and torso was observed during breakfast, staring at Jane, one of nurses attending the training. The other participants thought this was hilarious, but he was invisible to Jane, a traditionally-built gogo. He had no chance.

Swazi TV must have been having a quiet news day, because they filmed at the workshop yesterday. I was on the early morning Swazi TV news show today. At least I was looking serious and interested; Jane was caught on camera “playing around”.

This morning while we were waiting for people to come to the workshop from breakfast, I played a phone recording of a spontaneous hymn sung outside Matsapha clinic. The doctors, nurses and psychologists at the training all knew the words and started singing along, in harmony. Then we started the meeting with a prayer.

Swazis are often rather shy, so the facilitator employed a technique known as an “Ice Breaker”. The task was to divide into groups of two and to tell each other something funny about themselves. Vicky said, “I’m a facilitator, but I have a sideline selling perfume to finance my shopaholic habit.”

It was a blatant sales pitch. “I don’t need any, Vicky,” I said. “I buy my scent, ‘Midnight Sin’, from ShopRite.”

After the Ice Breaker, we had the “house rules”. No using mobile phones surreptitiously to access WhatsApp and Facebook. “Leave your phone on vibrate. No right-minded person looks down at their crotch and smiles.”

And we were off. Five days of training and gorging on buffet food three times a day at the hotel. Even the larger ladies were complaining that they were putting on weight by day four. No doubt this will sustain us when we are training the staff of 250 health facilities about GBV over the next year.

By Dr Alfred Prunesquallor

Maverick doctor with 40 years experience, I reduced my NHS commitment in 2013. I am now enjoying being free lance, working where I am needed overseas. Now I am working in the UK helping with the current coronavirus pandemic.


  1. Good to see you back in full colour, Ian – courtesy of Royal Swazi Spa superior wifi perhaps. Nice to see the Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow bush. Used to have on in my Nairobi garden.

  2. You look like you are having fun while working hard. I still have to persuade Ian that there might be a role for him at MSF even if he thinks his medical skills are not right for the work you are doing. Too general and not enough emergency stuff.

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