Sixteen Days of Activism

It seems as though everything has a “national day”, but activism against sexual violence in Swaziland is so important that it gets sixteen days. The team at MSF Matsapha has been contributing to the cause in many ways.

This pretty little girl, dressed in her best party frock to come to the clinic, has no connection with the subject of this post.


Last week, I was interviewed on Swazi TV with Bongiwe, psychosocial counsellor supervisor. Judging by the comments of people who watched me on TV, I am never going to be a natural. The interviewer, John Peres, manoeuvred me into position on the studio couch, making me look on edge and anxious. I had my hands cupped over my groin, never a good posture to adopt unless you are defending a free kick just outside the penalty area.

Yesterday I was interviewed on the Christian Swazi radio show (being broadcast as I type this) “Be The Best You Can Be – Swaziland” with Fundziwe.  She did another radio show at the start of the campaign and wanted me to accompany her because she was terrified. The radio show seemed to be going well until, at a record break, the interviewer said that he was running out of questions. He told us we needed to be more chatty, expand our answers and be more adventurous. That put us more at ease, so we openly discussed issues such as sodomy and termination of pregnancy. After the interview had finished he said, “Wow! I wasn’t expecting you to go that far.”


We had a series of discussions with community leaders, men and women, girls and boys, in the neighbourhoods where most of the people accessing our sexual violence service live. We also spoke on three occasions to high school students. The culmination of this health education work was a daytime disco held on a dusty sports ground at Kwaluseni last Saturday. There were competitions, quizzes with prizes, poetry readings, dancing and general merriment. This was less successful than we had hoped because the venue wasn’t ideal, the timing during the day wasn’t right for older children and the local hip hop star, King Terry, failed to turn up as promised. The event also clashed with two other big shows being held at the same time. And most damning of all, we did not provide FOOD. We have learned these lessons and will amend next year’s activities accordingly.

We commissioned local artists to draw cartoons on the walls of three shops in the Matsapha area. I visited these and took photographs. We asked some young people what they understood by the images and they correctly identified our message – not that the message was complicated, but sometimes people can misinterpret what we are trying to convey.


Already we can see the effects of our efforts. In July, we only saw one survivor in Room 72, our clinic room for survivors of sexual violence. Last month, we saw seventeen survivors. I saw four survivors in one day last week.

Our free call telephone hotline allows people to get confidential advice, but we still get lots of silent calls where people don’t have the courage to speak. It hasn’t increased the numbers of survivors attending within 72 hours as we had hoped. The telephone number is “1515” which I thought looked a bit like “ISIS”, so we have used a font which clearly indicates you should call this number, not Daesh.

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.

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