In 2007, Eswatini (then Swaziland) was the very first country to undertake the groundbreaking Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS). This unprecedented, inceptual survey was the first of its kind, globally, to collect national level data on the sexual, physical, and emotional violence against girls and young adult females between the ages of 13 and 24. It was led by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, with support from UNICEF, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and UNAIDS. Implemented by the Swaziland Central Statistics Office with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Since then, all future VACS worldwide have included boys’ experiences. In 2021, data collection was completed for Eswatini’s second VACS, this time including the experiences of both boys and girls.
In September 2023, Eswatini launched the VACS report, which presents the main indicators from Eswatini’s second VACS. The survey was led by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office (DPMO) in partnership with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Central Statistical Office (CSO) and with technical support from ICAP at Columbia University and CDC and funding provided by PEPFAR.
Conducting a second VACS allows the opportunity to measure progress made since the first VACS, identify emerging shifts in violence against children, evaluate ongoing efforts, and identify opportunities to create safer communities for every child, adolescent, and youth.
VACS completed, implementing response
In 2021, data collection was completed for Eswatini’s second VACS, this time including the experiences of both boys and girls. On December 7, 2022, Eswatini launched its Priority Indicator Report (PIR), which presents the priority indicators from Eswatini’s second VACS.
The National Plan of Action for Children 2022-2026 aims to further
strengthen and activate the implementation and monitoring of national, constitutional and policy commitments for the protection of children to ensure that all children are protected from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, and have access to quality social, health and justice services.
Data collection for the second VACS in Eswatini took place between April and August 2022.
The National Guidelines for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health 2021 aimed to reduce early sexual debut, teenage pregnancy and HIV and other STIs' incidence rates by strengthening preventative services through health education and information to help adolescents and youth make informed decisions regarding their health.
The National Youth Policy 2020 builds on the 2009 Youth Policy by reframing and strengthening a number of provisions to fit the current context. It focuses on building the capabilities of young people and on the creation of opportunities for young people to utilize their capabilities.
The 2020 School Discipline Guidelines aim to promote safe environments in Eswatini schools, specifically addressing corporal punishment, sexual violence and school-related GBV, and providing guidance on adolescents' sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The 2019 Multisectoral Guidelines for Adolescents’ Access to HIV & SRH Services aim to scale up treatment, care and support services for children and adolescents, especially girls, with the objective of reducing pregnancy
among adolescents and positively influencing sexual behaviours.
The 2018 Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act seeks to prevent and protect all persons from harm from sexual acts and acts of domestic violence, with special measures to protect children. These include provisions on child pornography and sexual violence against children, as well as the creation of reporting mechanisms and care services for survivors.
The 2018 – 2023 National Multisectoral HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework (NSF) is a five-year policy designed to guide the national multisectoral HIV and AIDS response with the vision to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2022. It provides special provisions for the protection of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) from HIV infection and the use HIV programmes to address sexual violence against women and girls.
The 2017 Child Protection and Welfare Act extended existing provisions for the protection of children established by Eswatini's 2005 Constitution, as well as international instruments, protocols, standards, and rules on the protection and welfare of children. These include the right to protection from forced labour, exposure to abuse, discrimination, and other harmful practices.
The Government of Eswatini hosted the first Violence Against Children Global Meeting: “From Research to Action: Advancing Prevention and Response to Violence Against Children”, where participants from 20 countries engaged with the VACS process met to discuss progress, research on what works to prevent and respond to violence, and next steps.
The 2012 Children’s Protection and Welfare Act defines the rights of the child and the procedures for children in need of care and protection and criminalises the exploitation and neglect of children.
The Act also outlines the responsibilities of parents, guardians and all stakeholders involved in the care and welfare of children, including government departments, community leaders and community members to protect children from abuse.
The 2011-2015 National Plan for Action for Most Vulnerable Children strengthens the ability of governments, communities, and families to support vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS, experiencing economic hardship, abuse, withdrawal from school and other psychological and emotional difficulties.
The 2011 Education and Training Sector Policy aims to provide an equitable and inclusive education system that grants all learners access to high-quality, free and compulsory primary and secondary education. It includes special provisions for the protection of learners from violence, abuse and exploitation.
The 2010 National Gender Policy provides guidelines and indicators to assist stakeholders in achieving gender equity as provided for in the 2005 Constitution and other relevant International instruments that the country has ratified.
Specifically, the policy seeks to ensure equitable access by girls and
boys, women and men to education, training, health services, and control
over resources such as land and credit.
The 2009-2014 National Multisectoral Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS addressed the needs and epidemic trends in Swaziland, drawing on new global and national knowledge and information on HIV and AIDS.
The 2009 National Guidelines on Alternative Care set the minimum standards of care for the operation of institutions providing children with alternative care.
The 2009 National Children's Policy sought to promote, protect and fulfil the rights of all children and ensure their full development and long-term welfare. It included provisions on:
3) children with disabilities
4) care and support
5) psychosocial support
6) food and nutrition security
7) socio-economic security
8) child protection and legal support.
The data collection for Eswatini's first VACS took place between May and June 2007