A salute to Canada’s model of volunteer co-operation
By Nonhlanhla Dlamini, Southern partner and Board Member of Canadian Crossroads International Executive Director Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA)
Violence against women is commonplace in Swaziland. In my country, the subordination of women’s rights, violence and the threat of HIV infection are inextricably linked.
Domestic violence, rape, early marriage, child sexual abuse, trafficking into sexual exploitation and other abuses help drive the AIDS epidemic among women and girls.
Women are considered minors. They have limited or no access to education or personal income, rendering them dependent on men. Women often cannot negotiate protected sex. These factors plus cultural traditions limit women’s control over their own lives and increase their vulnerability to violence and AIDS. We have the highest HIV and AIDS infection rate in the world — more than 40 per cent of our people are infected, and of these, 60 per cent are women.
Since its formation in 1990, SWAGAA has worked to support victims of violence and to bring an end to violence against women and children in Swaziland. SWAGAA works with a number of International Volunteer Cooperation Organizations from various countries. But the Canadian model is outstanding in a number of ways.
In our experience, volunteer co-operation:
- meets partner needs. Volunteer placements are demandrather than supply-driven. The receiving organization identifies the areas of need, develops the job description and participates in the recruitment process, helping ensure volunteers have the skills we need to help us grow.
- goes both ways. The model provides for all manner of exchanges — from north to south, south to north and between southern organizations — this flexibility provides maximum potential for the development of new skills and approaches that are most appropriate for our context and also ensures learning takes place between all partners.
- is more than just volunteer placements. Partnership projects and support for networking help connect likeminded organizations, locally, regionally and internationally — sharing relevant skills and learning from each other, an example of which is seen in Canada right now through SWAGAA’s partnership with the Transition House of Nova Scotia in Halifax and the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe – bringing together women’s groups to address violence against women and girls in both hemispheres.
Coming from a developing country where there are a lot of challenges, there is nothing more encouraging than knowing that there are people miles away who care. People who believe that violence against women, AIDS and poverty are global issues that we can all do something about, and who are willing to commit their financial and human resources to ensure that human rights are respected, poverty is eliminated, and the impact of HIV and AIDS is reduced around the world.
As a person advocating for women in Swaziland, I would like to assure you that we will continue to make a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens, and with your support we will succeed. Let me say to all Canadians who volunteer for a better world, you are truly global citizens, and your solidarity and support is greatly and sincerely appreciated.