Written by Mercia Andrews
5 October 2016
“There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard.” (Arundhati Roy)
Close to 200 women from all over Southern Africa gathered in Manzini, Swaziland, recently for the Rural Women’s Assembly’s (RWA) People’s Summit that coincides with the annual SADC Heads of State Summit. They came from Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique and the far-flung villages of Swaziland itself. They came with seeds, fabric, baskets, and craft. They came with stories of hardships and survival as well as voices that sang songs of resistance – against patriarchy – as well as songs of joy, of seeds, of land and love.
The RWA traveled to Swaziland this year as an act of solidarity with their sisters in the country. Although one of the largest chapters of the RWA with 20 000 members, the RWA in Swaziland has many challenges. Swaziland is an extremely poor country that is governed by a Monarch with near absolute powers. Women, and particularly rural women have very limited rights and very insecure access to land.
The three -day event brings together movements and activists and is held in parallel with the Southern African People’s Network (SAPSN) Summit. As such, the People’s Summit tries to speak directly to the themes of the SADC Heads of State and present people’s alternatives. This year, the official SADC Summit was happening during the worst drought experienced in the region. The severe drought conditions have already taken their toll on agricultural production. Small-scale farmers and producers, especially have been most affected by the drought.
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