September 17, 2003 - Peace Corps Press Release: New Volunteers Arrive in Swaziland with HIV/AIDS Focus

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: September 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: September 17, 2003 - Peace Corps Press Release: New Volunteers Arrive in Swaziland with HIV/AIDS Focus

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, September 19, 2003 - 2:48 pm: Edit Post

New Volunteers Arrive in Swaziland with HIV/AIDS Focus

Read and comment on this Peace Corps Press Release that thirty-five new Peace Corps volunteers arrived today in the southern African nation of Swaziland to begin work in the area of HIV/AIDS education and awareness. Currently, the greatest problem confronting the people of Swaziland is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In 2002, the HIV/AIDS infection rate of adults (ages 15 to 49) was 33.4 percent, and approximately 35,000 children have been orphaned as a result of AIDS. Read the story at:

New Volunteers Arrive in Swaziland with HIV/AIDS Focus*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

New Volunteers Arrive in Swaziland with HIV/AIDS Focus

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 17, 2003 – Thirty-five new Peace Corps volunteers arrived today in the southern African nation of Swaziland to begin work in the area of HIV/AIDS education and awareness. Last week in a meeting with Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez, His Majesty King Mswati III praised Peace Corps for their previous 20 years of service and is please that Peace Corps volunteers will be returning to Swaziland to focus on HIV/AIDS education awareness and prevention.

Currently, the greatest problem confronting the people of Swaziland is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In 2002, the HIV/AIDS infection rate of adults (ages 15 to 49) was 33.4 percent, and approximately 35,000 children have been orphaned as a result of AIDS. To assist the people of Swaziland in combating the pandemic, Peace Corps volunteers’ assignments will include: training teachers and community members in life skills aimed at HIV/AIDS prevention; initiating and promoting programs in HIV/AIDS awareness; identifying partnerships and resources alliances to fight the epidemic; strengthening existing HIV/AIDS intervention strategies and activities; mobilizing communities to respond to the effects of HIV/AIDS; and working with in-school and out-of-school youth and with orphans.

From 1968 to 1996, 1,185 volunteers have served in Swaziland, chiefly working in the areas of education, community development, and agriculture. Peace Corps arrived in Swaziland within a year of its independence from Great Britain, and the original program’s objectives were to respond to Swaziland’s need for educated and trained human resources by raising general education and technical skill levels.

Since 1961, more than 170,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and awareness, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

September 12, 2003 - More about Women's Rights and AIDS in Swaziland

Young Swazi maidens who were performing in the country's annual reed dance react after a hail storm halted the last day of the ceremony at Ludzidzini, Swaziland, Friday Sept. 5, 2003. The annual reed dance brings unmarried girls from all over Swaziland to pay homage to the Swazi Queen Mother, Ntombi Thwala. In recent years Swazi King, Mswati III, has also used the occasion to select a new wife. Women's rights activists have slammed Mswati's marriage habits as feudalistic and health care workers have raised concerns they send the wrong message about AIDS.

Read more in this story from the Voice of America about King Mswati III of Swaziland and issues regarding women's rights and HIV/AIDS education in his country at:

Swaziland's Reed Dance at Odds with Democratization Process, Women's Rights

Swaziland's Reed Dance at Odds with Democratization Process, Women's Rights

Challiss McDonough

Ludzidzini, Swaziland

12 Sep 2003, 21:54 UTC

Last week in Swaziland, young women paraded before the king in the annual Reed Dance, wondering if he would choose one of them to be his next wife. But many of the girls did not want to be there. The annual event has focused attention on political reform efforts in Swaziland. VOA Correspondent Challiss McDonough attended the ceremony at the royal residence in central Swaziland's Ezulwini Valley, and has this report.

Thirty teenage girls from one village are singing traditional songs on their way to Swaziland's annual Reed Dance at the Ludzidzini royal residence. They travel in a group, led by two stick-wielding men chosen by their village chief to watch over them.

The Reed Dance is one of the most spectacular and well-known of Swaziland's cultural traditions. Every year, thousands of young women dance bare-breasted before the royal family at the end of a week-long ritual. One of the women, Zihla Bembe likes participating in the dance because, as she sees it, it is part of being a Swazi girl. "Because it's our Swazi culture, and we are proud of it," she said.

Officially, the ceremony is in honor of the king's mother. The girls cut and deliver reeds to her royal residence in order to symbolically re-build part of it after a long winter.

But the Reed Dance has also become known for another, more recently-developed tradition. Like his father before him, Swaziland's absolute monarch, King Mswati, has taken to choosing a new wife or two from among the young women. Swazi kings can have as many wives as they want. So far, King Mswati has 12.

The event sparked a major controversy last year, when the mother of his 10th wife filed a lawsuit in hopes of getting her daughter back after the king picked her out at the Reed Dance. It did not work, and the mother reluctantly dropped the case.

Critics of the tradition say an increasing number of girls, especially from the cities, are refusing to take part in the Reed Dance because they do not want to run the risk of becoming a queen. And some of the girls who do take part are desperately hoping the king will not notice them.

Swaziland's King Mswati III has chosen a 17-year-old girl to become his 11th wife, alarming health workers who say he is setting a bad example for a kingdom with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. The Royal Palace announced that Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, planned to marry Noliqhwa Ntentensa at a ceremony next year when she will be 18. He will be 36.

Seventeen-year-old Nobahle Sihlongonyane enjoys the Reed Dance, she says, because it is a colorful ceremony and she likes the traditional woolen tassels and beads that the girls wear.

"I've got three sisters who have attended the ceremony. And unfortunately for them, they are nowhere to be found now! They cannot come back anymore because they have given birth. So I am the only one who is able to attend the ceremony," she said.

When asked whether she thinks the king will pick her as his next fiancee, Miss Sihlangonyane demurely says she doubts she has the qualities the king is looking for. "He's looking for a tall girl. She must be tall, slender, with that body! And of course you must be beautiful," she said. Would you be happy if you were chosen? She won't because, she adds, "I don't like polygamy. I hate polygamy."

Many of the other urban girls who took part in the Reed Dance have similar views. They must have given a huge sigh of relief when this year's dance was interrupted by a freak hailstorm. Just as the king was about to walk down the red carpet into the crowd of dancers to start examining them a little more closely, the heavens opened up and hailstones the size of almonds pelted the crowd. Ten-thousand girls made a break for it, stampeding through the stands, shoving aside diplomats and tourists. Within minutes, the field was empty.

It is not clear how much longer the king will retain his right to choose whoever he wants as a wife. Swaziland is in the midst of a slow process of democratization, under pressure from the international community. The king recently presented a draft of a proposed new constitution, which includes many new rights for women.

Women's rights activist Zakhe Hlanze of the Swazi branch of Women and Law in Southern Africa says the draft constitution would guarantee women the right to choose what cultural traditions to take part in, including whether or not to enter into a polygamous marriage.

"We feel that this is a progressive provision, and we feel that women will be able to choose whether to undergo certain customs or not," she explains. "And we feel that this provision in the constitution will actually help in changing the status of women."

But Ms. Hlanze says she remains concerned about the way the proposed constitution handles the delicate balancing act between law and tradition.

"I'm saying that it is encouraging, but I know that there are problems," she explains. "Because in the same constitution, you find that customs and traditions actually seem to be taking a superiority, they seem to be superior even to the constitution. So if it is like that, we may have problems when women try to actually access these rights that are in this particular draft."

Former Swazi Prime minister and current opposition leader Obed Dlamini believes change is inevitable because the people will demand it. He says the king will have to give up some of his absolute powers.

"All that we need as Swazis, without shedding at the expense of the nation our culture, is to ensure that democracy exists, and that culture should not supersede democracy," he said. "This is our demand. I cannot foresee Swaziland sustaining the status quo without making serious advances towards introducing a typical democratic dispensation. I just cannot see that."

Back at the Reed Dance, some of the participants were taking a more traditional attitude. Sixteen-year-old Lungile Shongwe says she would love to get the king's attention and possibly become the next Liphovela, or royal fiancee.

"Because I enjoy the life there, I think it would be nice, just sitting there relaxing, getting everything you want without working for it," she said. " And visiting overseas! Ooohh! With the airplane!"

Even though King Mswati did not have a chance to pick a new bride at the Reed Dance this year, the teenage Ms. Shongwe has a few more years to try to catch his eye. Constitutional changes are not likely to do away with the Reed Dance entirely, and unmarried young women with no children can take part in it every year until they are 21 or 22.

In the meantime, the Associated Press is reporting that the king has just taken his 12th wife - a runner-up in the Miss Swaziland beauty contest. At the time of the pageant, she told a local magazine that she does not believe in polygamy. But under Swazi law, if the king chooses her, she can not refuse.

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

Call your Senator about PC Appropriations

Top Stories this Week
Evaluating the Peace Corps 11 Sept
Mark Schneider: Unilateralism inspires distrust 10 Sept
Peace Corps Director Travels to Africa 10 Sept
Lariam Failure blamed for Malaria outbreak 10 Sept
RPCV says Peace Corps yields huge dividends 10 Sept
DC and FON RPCVs push for new NPCA Board 7 Sept
Which way for the NPCA?
Read three different views on where the NPCA is headed: First our interview with NPCA President Kevin Quigley, then John Coyne's Modest Proposal for the NPCA, and finally our story on changes in NPCA's bylaws that some RPCVs have proposed.
More Stories from the September Issue of PCOL Magazine

Does Bush really support the Peace Corps?
What is the substance behind the President's rhetoric of support for the Peace Corps?

The Art of Being Globally Thrifty
Read Terez Rose's essay about one of the lessons she learned while in Africa - how to be patient and weather the storm of challenging times with dignity and grace.

Cultural Representation and the Peace Corps Museum
The Peace Corps Museum can be a place where cultures are respected with dignity, stories are told and where we can come together as a community.

Queer Eye for the Straight RPCV
Read the email from the casting director for the TV show "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" who is looking for a recently Returned Volunteer to be on the show.

The Peace Corps Encyclopedia
Take a look at our new "Encyclopedia" of Peace Corps knowledge with information about over 100 categories.

More Feature Stories from Recent Issues of PCOL Magazine

House of Representatives passes Charter
The Peace Corps and the Returned Volunteer community celebrated a big victory when the "Peace Corps Act for the 21st Century" Act passed the House in July. Read what's next for the bill.

Kevin Quigley named new NPCA President
The NPCA has selected the next generation of leadership for their organization. Read about the new President.

Investigation on death of PCV in Mali
The results of the investigation into the death of PCV Zachary Merrill in Mali.

President Bush meets PCVs in Botswana
The President met with PCVs in Botswana. Here's what he said.

Friends of Liberia issue a Call to Action
This RPCV group has a long history on involvement in efforts to bring peace to their Country of Service. Here's what they have to say about the present situation.

Issues with the Peace Corps Bill in Congress
Read about the differences between the House and Senate versions of the "Peace Corps Act for the 21st Century" and decide which one is better.

Americorps' Failure
Lessons the Peace Corps can learn from Americorps' problems.

RPCVs dump ton of coal at US Capital
Read what the RPCV-led Chesapeake Climate Action Network is doing to educate the public on Global Warming.

German Peace Corps celebrates 40 years
The governance structure of the German Peace Corps differs from that of the US Peace Corps. Is it better?

Peace Corps to add 1,000 AIDS/HIV volunteers
Director Vasquez's new initiative to expand the Peace Corps in Africa.

Bill Moyers on America's Future
Read what an early Peace Corps Deputy Director says about America's future.

Op-ed: The Future of the Peace Corps
Does the Peace Corps have a future in the age of the American Imperium? What do you think?

RPCV is wheelchair basketball champion
The courage of a volunteer struck down by polio in Central America.

Watch Director Vasquez on web tv
See the Peace Corps Director speak to High School students in Maryland.

The Digital Freedom Initiative
The innovative new program to wire Senegal.

For the Record: Top Stories in the last 30 days
RPCV says to develop ties with world 11 Sept
Evaluating the Peace Corps 11 Sept
Howard Dean's brother planned to join PC 11 Sept
Mark Schneider: Unilateralism inspires distrust 10 Sept
Lariam Failure blamed for Malaria outbreak 10 Sept
Friends of Liberia send message to Bush 10 Sept
Peace Corps Director Travels to Africa 10 Sept
RPCV says Peace Corps yields huge dividends 10 Sept
Eunice Kennedy Shriver backs Schwarzenegger 10 Sept
PC Director Visits Namibia 10 Sept
RPCVs start Enginering Assistance Network 9 Sept
Bush Should Listen Closely in Africa 7 Sept
DC and FON RPCVs push for new NPCA Board 7 Sept
Become an NPCA Advocate 5 Sept
NPCA President speaks out for Americorps 5 Sept
Interview with NPCA President Kevin Quigley 3 Sept
Visa Problems frustrate RPCV's wedding 3 Sept
Carol Bellamy's UNICEF in the crosshairs 2 Sept
RPCV Dave Thieson dies in Maryland 2 Sept
The Art of Being Globally Thrifty 1 Sept
RPCV founds Educare-Africa 1 Sept
RPCV says No Stability in Afghanistan 28 Aug
Bush meets with future PCVs 28 Aug
Senator Coleman to push to AIDS funding 28 Aug
Walsh won't support Americorps bailout 28 Aug
Former Director Chao profiled in USA Today 28 Aug
RPCVs form Bridges with Ghana 27 Aug
Shays says Iraq Effort Needs Allied Help 27 Aug
RPCV says to pressure Putin 27 Aug
Bush greets future PCVs 26 Aug
Teen Sentenced For Killing RPCV Father 26 Aug
MN Newspaper says Bush treats PC well 26 Aug
Senator's 'Aids tour' could make a difference 24 Aug
Future PCVs will greet Bush in Minnesota 22 Aug
Bush to meet PC Volunteers in Minnesota 22 Aug
Coleman stunned by AIDS comments 22 Aug
"I have a Dream" 40th Anniversary 22 Aug
RPCV Mayor urges Hispanics to get involved 22 Aug
RPCV named `New Englander of the Year' 20 Aug
Queer Eye For The Straight RPCV 20 Aug
PC Welcomes Kids For Peace Camp 20 Aug
President visits PCVs in Botswana 20 Aug
RPCV says students don't discuss world news 20 Aug
Coleman to examine Africa's AIDS crisis 19 Aug
RPCV discusses New school testing 19 Aug
Senator Coleman to meet PCVs in Africa 19 Aug
Vasquez criticized for supporting Gay Pride 19 Aug
RPCVs work to end Female Genital Mutilation 17 Aug
RPCV runs river guide business in Alaska 17 Aug
Somber reminders of danger 16 Aug
RPCV helps poor Guatemalan village 15 Aug
A Modest Proposal 13 Aug
Kennedy/Shriver connections help Arnold 13 Aug
Top Discussion Stories

Interview with Kevin Quigley
Our talk with the new NPCA President about his vision for the organization.

A Modest Proposal
Read the op-ed by John Coyne on how to expand and revitalize the NPCA and what you can do to help.

Send in the Peace Corps?
Should the Peace Corps be heading into Iraq and Afghanistan? What do you think?

Peace Corps Charter
Read about the new Peace Corps bill going through Congress. Compare the Senate and House versions of the bill here.

A Volunteer's Courage
After Sara Evans was assaulted she left the Peace Corps and returned to the United States. But her ordeal was only beginning.

The Fourth Goal
Read about Sargent Shriver's Fourth Goal for the Peace Corps. His original speech at Yale about the Peace Corps in the 21st Century is here.

The Numbers Game
Double the Peace Corps - but maintain the quality of the programs and the volunteer experience.

Improvements needed Volunteer services. Read our exclusive story on what needs to be done to support volunteers and reduce attrition rates.

Volunteer Safety
Read the GAO Report on Safety and Security of Volunteers.

The Lariam Files
Read about the anti-malarial drug thousands of volunteers have taken - and its potential side effects.

Senator Norm Coleman is a strong supporter of Bush's full $359M budget request but wants greater accountability from the Peace Corps. Read why.

Protest at the Peace Corps
Do volunteers and staff retain first amendment rights while working in the Peace Corps. Join the discussion.

RPCVs organize
Read how 1,800 RPCVs organized to place two half-page ads in the New York Times.

PC is "truly hardcore"
A Marine Sergeant visited his daughter who is serving in Nicaragua. Read what he says about the Peace Corps.

From Russia with Love
The story behind the departure of the Peace Corps from Russia.

RPCVs honor Vaughn
Returned Volunteers met to honor and listen to the wisdom of Peace Corps legend Jack Vaughn.

More Special Reports

The IDPA: PC Forerunner
The IDPA, a forerunner of the Peace Corps, created in 1951 to place people with indigenous organizations and governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Alcohol Abuse a big issue for PCVs in Central Asia
Read about the health hazard PC Staff is warning volunteers in former Soviet Republics about.

PC/Washington: Senior Staff Appointments at PC HQ
See if you can guess how many RPCVs there are in senior staff positions at PC Headquarters.

Peace Corps TV Show
Last year Fox network created a pilot for a tv show about a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Although the show wasn't picked up, read RPCVs' many humourous suggestions for the title.

RPCV Spy dies in Moscow
The strange story of the RPCV who defected to Russia.

The Shrivers: A Special Legacy
The Founding Director of the Peace Corps and his future plans.

The Case for PC Independence
Why the USA Freedom Corps doesn't make sense.

Preservation of an Independent Peace Corps
Returned Volunteers insist that the Peace Corps must remain an independent agency to do its job.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Swaziland; HIV; AIDS



By Anonymous ( - on Wednesday, December 27, 2006 - 10:11 am: Edit Post

I am gifted with Spiritual healing and HIV/AIDS is one, I shall like to give you details after your response

By Staecy Biggs ( - on Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 12:17 pm: Edit Post

I think the goverment should make a cure for AIDS/HIV.

Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.