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Swaziland: A Protective Environment for Children? Utilising and Evaluating the UNICEF Framework in a Developing Society

by Lydia Marshall[1], Department of Sociology, University of Warwick

 

Abstract

UNICEF's Protective Environment framework describes eight ways in which the organisation believes children should be protected in every nation. The research upon which this article is based consisted of a brief review of existing literature and an ethnographic case-study in Lobamba, Swaziland. The aim was both to investigate to what extent Swaziland is a protective environment for children according to this framework, and to consider whether the model needs reassessing in the light of the different economic, social and cultural values of a developing southern African country. It also focused on the positive roles which children in Swaziland play in the lives of their families and communities, for example in looking after one another and avoiding the risks identified by UNICEF, an approach which is seemingly neglected in the paternalistic model.

The findings suggest that although some aspects of the framework did appear to be appropriate to this society and to feature in the children's own conception of their world and need for protection, other elements seemed incongruous with the economic and cultural environment of this country. Interviews with ten children and their teacher highlighted other ways in which the children are or should be protected within this society.

Keywords: Child Development, Poverty, UNICEF, African Society, Sociology, Social Policy.

 

Introduction

This research was conceptualised around the Protective Environment framework set out by Karin Landgren, UNICEF's Chief of Child Protection, in 1995, championing a 'preventative' rather than 'curative' approach to child protection policy. Making use of existing literature on Swaziland and conducting a localised ethnographic case-study, I set out to investigate to what extent Swaziland can be seen as a protective environment for children according to this model, and to consider whether the framework needs reassessing in the light of the different economic, social and cultural values of a developing Southern African country.

UNICEF asserts that children are not sufficiently protected from violence, exploitation and abuse in many parts of the world despite legislation such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child being almost universal (Landgren, 1995: 214). This is argued to be a result of barriers such as traditional practices, lack of national capacity and insufficient law enforcement (ibid.: 215) and the framework thus identifies eight elements perceived to be vital in protecting children from harmful situations and experiences (see table 1). UNICEF has put forward this framework as a tool to identify factors that aid and threaten child protection, as well as a guide for different actors to work together in strengthening child protection.

Element of the 'Protective Environment' Examples of Indicators
Protective Government Commitment and Capacity
  • ratification of international conventions;
  • budgetary provisions for child protection;
  • public declarations of commitment for child-friendly policies.
Protective Legislation and Enforcement
  • prosecution of violators;
  • child-friendly and confidential legal procedures;
  • juvenile justice regime in place.
Protective Culture and Customs
  • childcare practices that do not involve corporal punishment ;
  • sexual exploitation of children as socially unacceptable;
  • children with disabilities or orphaned by AIDS not being stigmatised.
Open Discussion, including the engagement of civil society and media
  • harmful phenomena recognised and reported in the media;
  • young people are able to refer to such issues at home, at school, and with each other;
  • NGOs and media are able to work with minimal interference.
Protective Children's Life Skills, Knowledge, and Participation

an environment in which children…

  • are aware that they have rights;
  • are encouraged to form views and express them;
  • are taught problem solving and negotiating skills.
Protective Capacity of Families and Communities
  • parents and other caregivers observing protective childrearing practices;
  • families are supported for childcare needs;
  • the existence of some demographic balance.
Protective Essential Services
  • education that is free for all children, including refugees;
  • non-discriminatory provision of health care, including for sex workers and detainees;
  • trained teachers who are present and working.
Protective Monitoring, Reporting, and Oversight
  • systematic collection of data, transparent reporting of data and review by policy makers;
  • access by independent observers to children in traditionally marginalised groups;
  • encouragement of and respect for civic review.


Table 1.
Examples of indicators of the eight elements of a 'Protective Environment' cited by UNICEF (Landgren 2005)


Swaziland is a southern African country populated by around 1 million people, over two-thirds of whom have a monthly household income of below US$20. This poverty is being amplified by the AIDS pandemic, with more than one in three children left without access to basic services (UNICEF, 2007). More than 200,000 of the population are HIV-positive and the majority of those dying from AIDS-related illnesses are young and middle-aged adults, leaving behind a large orphan population in addition to thousands of children who are highly vulnerable due to the extreme poverty and sickness of parents or home situations of abuse and exploitation. These orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) are subject to increased risks of abuse and exploitation and Swaziland is arguably entering a 'second cycle' of the AIDS epidemic (UNICEF, 2007). The proportion of children completing basic education in Swaziland has also declined over recent years due to the increasing inability of families to afford school fees, particularly those supporting OVC. Although the Swazi government has announced that students attending the first two grades of primary school will be exempt from school fees as of next January, the implementation of long-awaited free primary education (FPE) will be gradual.

As well as investigating the extent to which the components of UNICEF's Protective Environment were being employed in Swaziland, I sought to evaluate the framework's appropriateness to a non-Western, developing society. Oleke et al. (2006: 268) argue that the growing literature concerning orphans in sub-Saharan Africa suffers from broad generalisations, portraying orphans as 'either inherently privileged by being integrated into the extended family system […] or as an enormous underprivileged and suffering category of children'. Challenging these assumptions, they found that the vulnerability of orphans in a district of Uganda varied according to a large variety of factors including their age and gender, the kin category they were living with and the economic position of that family unit (ibid.). Henderson (2006) has highlighted the notion that 'global terms may fail to describe local particularities', and that discourse often mistakenly assumes that AIDS orphans remain without adult guidance and sufficient socialisation, denying the 'fluid networks of care' functioning within many African societies. Das and Reynolds (2003) agree that assumptions about 'normal' strategies and behaviour exhibited by children need to be discarded, and assert that this can only be done by paying attention to children themselves instead of judging by adult 'scripts'. They acknowledge the care-giving responsibilities and novel survival strategies undertaken by many children living in poverty. Drawing on this critical literature, I hoped to give the children involved in my research a voice to express their beliefs about how and why they needed protection as well as how they might work to create protective environments for themselves.

 

Methodology

I conducted preliminary research investigating both the demographic and economic situation in Swaziland and the extent to which government policy and legislation reflected the recommendations of the Protective Environment model. This sought to ascertain the ways in which policy was in line with international guidelines, and to gain knowledge of government claims, enabling comparison with what I found to be implemented at grass-roots level.

My five-week local case-study using participant observation and semi-structured interviews then explored how these ideas were being understood by Swazi citizens. From 7 July to 8 August 2008, I worked in a Neighbourhood Care Point (NCP) in the densely populated rural area of Lobamba, the traditional capital of Swaziland. Working here and participating in community life, I was able to observe children interacting with each other and adult authority figures. I structured my observation around UNICEF'S key indicators of a protective environment, looking for the identification of corporal punishment and sexual exploitation of children as being socially unacceptable, the absence of stigmatisation of children with disabilities or orphaned by AIDS, and the presence of an atmosphere where children were able to refer to harmful phenomena such as abuse. Additionally, I explored the accessibility of free schooling, the availability of trained teachers, and whether education involved the teaching of problem solving skills employable in everyday life. I conducted interviews with a sample of ten children from the NCP, exploring attitudes towards and awareness of these issues, and the ability to refer to such matters at home, at school and with each other. The children were selected in order to obtain a balance of girls and boys and children who lived within the centre of Lobamba or beyond the forest (perceived to be a dangerous area for children to walk through) and a mix of age ranges. An interview was also conducted with a key gate-keeper, a teacher at the NCP who additionally assisted my research as a translator, aiding my observation of the children and translating during interviews. The children at the NCP speak siSwati as their first language and although lessons are taught in a mixture of English and siSwati, I felt that the children would be able to express themselves more precisely and emotively in their mother tongue than if constrained by their limited English. It is important to note, however, that all direct quotes of children in this article were subject to the interpretation of a translator, and thus there is the possibility that they have been shaped by either her own expectations, or her perceptions of my research aims.

During my research I entered personal and moral relationships with the children at the NCP and other members of the community, and sought to prioritise their well-being at all times. My greatest ethical dilemma was the possible repercussions resulting from children disclosing any instances of abuse. For this reason, I made sure all children were informed of the subject of my research and that I would be writing about my observations and anything they might tell me when I got back to England. Many of the children were orphans, and the vast majority of caregivers were illiterate, and hence obtaining written parental consent was often impossible. Furthermore, I anticipated that the imposition of permission forms and other procedures might suggest Western bureaucracy and formality, impairing the trust and solidarity which I hoped I could build between myself and the community I was working in. However, my gatekeeper and translator was a trusted carer and teacher to the children, who I felt confident would ensure that children were not upset by any questions I might ask. When conducting interviews I ensured that participants understood that giving initial consent did not mean that they were unable to terminate the conversation at any time. Although I could not promise the children complete confidentiality, I assured them that their names would be changed in my work.

I also anticipated the potential psychological and emotional impact that hearing potentially distressing stories of the lives of the children I was working with and caring for might have upon myself. For this reason I chose to stay with other volunteers working at the NCP and on other community projects. This provided an invaluable support base, and gave me access to staff with a wealth of experience with such issues. There was also a chance that I might be rejected by the community in which I was working. Not only would the complex power relations involved in field research be at play, but I was also broaching sensitive topics with the children I worked with. Because of the possibility that members of the community might resent what they perceived as unwelcome intervention into the traditional practices and structures of their society, I tried to remain aware of the impact of my actions at all times, and was willing to terminate my research project if I thought I was putting myself or others at danger. Fortunately, the community in Lobamba were incredibly welcoming and interested in my research.

This ethnographic approach befitted my research aim, which was to gain an in-depth understanding of the ways in which children experience protection, or lack thereof, in this society. I hoped that by exploring the particularities of this community and the children's perceptions of their lives in Lobamba, I could highlight any problems of ethnocentrism and generalisation in the UNICEF model. Furthermore, I aspired to empower the children, enabling them to express their fears as well as tell how they were active in creating a protective environment, rather than constraining my research by arguably paternalistic views of their vulnerability.

 

Findings

My research gave the striking impression that children are the foremost victims of the extensive negative effects of HIV and AIDS in Swaziland. In this country more than 200,000 people, of a population of approximately 1 million, are HIV-positive; over 42% of pregnant women are infected with the virus; and under-five mortality has recently been estimated at 156 per 1,000 live births (UNICEF, 2007). Around 20,000 households in Swaziland are caring for someone with AIDS, a burden believed to be 'exacerbating the poverty' that affects the significant majority of the population (ibid: 95). The epidemic is contributing to the growth of the huge orphan population in Swaziland (over 69,000 in 2007), with around 10,000 children becoming orphaned each year, large numbers of whom are left to fend for themselves in child-headed households (ibid.: 95). It is estimated that by 2010 there will be 178,000 orphans and other children who are highly vulnerable due to the extreme poverty or sickness of caregivers as well as situations of abuse and exploitation (ibid: 95).

It is the situation of these orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) that led UNICEF to set up Neighbourhood Care Points such as the centre in Lobamba in which I based my case-study. The centres are also a response to the large numbers of OVCs isolated from the formal education system by the inability of families to afford school fees, and the worry that these children are subject to inordinate risks of abuse and maltreatment. They seek to meet 'the basic needs of these children with respect to nutrition and health, nonformal education and psychosocial support' (ibid.: 95), and this certainly seemed to be being achieved in the Lobamba NCP. However, only twenty to twenty five per cent of OVC were being reached in 2007 (ibid.).

Utilising the Protective Environment framework

In many ways it appears that the recommendations of the UNICEF framework are being adhered to superficially within Swazi society, particularly with regard to Government Commitment and Capacity. For example, the government has signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and has dedicated a whole section of its constitution to children's rights (Parliament of Swaziland, 2005). A Domestic Violence and Child Sexual Abuse unit has also been created, and the latest figures for Swaziland indicate that almost one fifth of government expenditure was dedicated to the development of education (UNDP, 2007/2008). These indicators suggest that the government is at least formally committed to protecting children, and that issues such as violence and sexual abuse have officially entered the public domain.

In terms of Legislation and Enforcement, although there is no distinct juvenile justice system or separate children's court in Swaziland, a child-friendly wing of the national court exists where children can give testimony in a safe and unintimidating environment. However, further background research affirmed Landgren's suggested 'gap' between government declarations and the experience of many children (Landgren, 2005: 247). For example, despite the Constitution asserting that by 2008 all children in the country would have access to free education (Parliament of Swaziland, 2005: 32), FPE will only begin its very gradual implementation in 2010.

Findings from my ethnographic study also tell a mixed story, particularly with regard to the impact of local Culture and Customs. The prevalence of corporal punishment in Swaziland contravenes the recommendations of the UNICEF framework, but as a teacher at the Lobamba NCP succinctly phrased it, 'things are changing', and with this change come many ambiguities and disagreements about what is socially acceptable in terms of physical discipline. On the whole, corporal punishment is commonplace and apparently 'normal', but the degree of severity deemed admissible varies widely. In particular, the age of the children concerned tended to be a factor in how appropriate corporal punishment was deemed to be. For example, the mother of an eight-year-old girl perceived beating children at pre-school to be unnecessary and said that it was illegal, but that it was allowed from primary school onwards, implying she thought that at this age it was acceptable. I did not observe any difference between the degrees of physical punishment deemed appropriate for boys and girls. Individual adults' opinions about corporal punishment varied, with adults who worked in and around the NCP having varying relationships with the children and differing greatly in the ways in which they expressed authority. Such adults discussed this freely during my observation, but it was rare that an adult was chastised for being too heavy handed in their punishment.

Children at the NCP were encouraged to discuss issues such as the threat of strangers, and they talked in great detail about this while being interviewed, but the idea of abuse by family members or other known figures seemed much more taboo. In this way, the indicators of Open Discussion and Protective Children's Life Skills, Knowledge and Participation struck me as being simultaneously present and conspicuously absent. One of my biggest concerns during this research was verifying whether children did not broach the subject of abuse by familiar adults because it was not a phenomenon they encountered, because they did experience corporal punishment but did not perceive it as problematic, or because they were afraid to speak up about abuse at home. The status of children's evidence is contentious, and the line between public and private was particularly blurred within this research. Although the children I interviewed were familiar with both myself and my translator, the conversations took place in a public arena. Furthermore, the translator was also a teacher and so a figure of authority, and hence it is hard to classify these interviews as 'private', despite the confidential relationships I strived to develop. Public accounts are typically selective and incomplete, excluding experiences and emotions that the informant perceives to be unacceptable or not respectable (Cornwell,1984: 205). Thus, the accounts the children at the NCP gave of their lives were inextricable from the society they were growing up in, and will have been shaped both by their perceptions of which subjects were socially acceptable to broach, and by what they sensed that their teacher was expecting from their answers.

Another paradox I observed during my research was that of the presentation of HIV/AIDS in public and private spheres. Classrooms for children aged six and upwards displayed posters about prevention and treatment of the virus, as did hundreds of billboards by roadsides, but the majority of children at the NCP had not been tested for the virus because of the vast stigma surrounding the illness. A lack of diagnosis is putting children at risk in Swaziland, denying them treatment that can be life-saving. Moreover, the reluctance to be tested for HIV is furthering the stigmatisation of those infected with the virus and reinforcing such attitudes amongst a new generation. Children diagnosed as HIV-positive or suspected to be infected were not excluded from the NCP or from local schools, but were often treated differently at home. One such six-year-old was sent away by his primary carer; an uncle who was responsible for caring for him and his brother as well as a son of his own. This child had not been diagnosed with HIV, but was sent to an orphanage because his alcoholic uncle could not cope with the various symptoms he was displaying, and feared that he would 'infect [his] own boy'. Although efforts are being made in the public sphere to educate the population and thus reduce the stigma surrounding the AIDS epidemic, there appears to be a long way to go before occurrences like this become uncommon.

To focus on Monitoring, Reporting and Oversight, I was welcomed as an independent observer with minimal suspicion, and there was little objection to my observation or interviewing of children or adults. Harmful phenomena such as sexual abuse, bestiality and HIV/AIDS were frequently reported by the Swazi media, but as Africa's last absolute monarchy, Swaziland is still a highly censored society, with treason punishable by death. Criticising or challenging the king in any way is illegal, and this includes any published press. This lack of freedom of speech clearly infringes upon human rights, as well as the recommendations of the Protective Environment framework.

As mentioned previously, the provision of FPE, an Essential Service cited by UNICEF, is still a distant dream for the majority in Swaziland. At the same time, however, teachers in Swaziland are often highly qualified and are in fact in too abundant supply because of a lack of funding for staff wages in schools. Volunteering at Lobamba NCP was a fully trained teacher, unable to find paid work in a school. This said, the effects of FPE will go beyond raising the numbers of children attending school, and may increase employment opportunities for teachers.

Landgren also places importance upon the availability of health care services, and two of the children interviewed referred to being taken to the local clinic by their primary caregiver as one way in which they were protected. In comparison, Wandile*, a nine-year-old boy, referred to being taken to the clinic as one of the ways in which children should be protected. Wandile appeared to be among the most poverty-stricken of the children at the NCP, and was the only child to say explicitly that 'I need money to be protected'. In this way, the effects of poverty can be seen to be wide ranging; not only did lack of money constrain Wandile's access to food and clothing, as he himself noted, but also to basic health services. Government clinic charges are minimal, but are nevertheless significant to families in this community and will affect decisions being made.

One factor of the Protective Environment definitely not reflected in Swaziland according to Landgren's indicators is the Protective Capacity of Families and Communities. The framework suggests that families should be supported for their childcare needs by the government, but there is no such monetary provision for parents or heads of household. Landgren also asserts the importance of the existence of 'some demographic balance' (1995: 227). UN statistics show that in 2005 almost 40% of the Swazi population were under 15 years old (UNDP, 2007/08), and many of the children at the NCP were living in households headed by older siblings rather than parents. I saw no evidence of the official government assistance recommended by the model to deal with this demographic situation, although the government is cooperating with various NGOs who support child-headed households.

Evaluating the Protective Environment Framework

Although the Swazi government has made bold pledges to improve children's lives, their Commitment and Capacity is questionable, which is apparent in their unfulfilled vow to provide free primary education for all. In a developing country such as Swaziland (see UNDP, 2007/2008 for GDP figures), the advice that more budgetary provisions will improve child protection may well be true, but hopes for dramatic funding increases are unrealistic. On the other hand, it does seem that the introduction of an efficient juvenile justice system would do much to protect children within this society, where children are viewed as a distinct social group in need of appropriate protection and care. Legislation and Enforcement must nevertheless be developed carefully in order to have sufficient impact.

The element of Landgren's framework that invites most criticism about the imposition of Western values is that of Culture and Customs. As discussed previously, corporal punishment was ubiquitous and physical abuse common in these children's lives. The model asserts that bodily punishment should be entirely absent within a society (Landgren, 2004: 227), and most adults I encountered appeared to feel the need for a line to be drawn between corporal punishment and unnecessary beating. Bongiwe*, an eleven-year-old girl, believed that children should not be beaten even if they had misbehaved, saying that 'beating you is not protecting you' and that children could 'tell the police' if they were beaten. However, corporal punishment is everyday and normalised in Swaziland, and Bongiwe was the only child to cite being punished as something she needed protection from. In fact, sixteen-year-old Bongani* referred to lack of discipline as problematic, asserting that 'some grown-ups who do not discipline their children and let them do whatever they want' were failing to protect children.

Corporal punishment was a challenging issue to explore during my research, as it was assumed by the local community that I would be opposed to such practices. It was difficult to decipher whether adults who criticised others for beating children were sincere in this view, or wanting to appear to feel that way. One teacher's awareness of my presence was apparent when she seemed compelled to justify physically punishing two children who threw stones at another volunteer, saying 'I will have to do something'.I also had reflexive difficulties in determining whether I was reacting to corporal punishment as a contravention of universal human rights, or as an infringement of the set of standards I had learnt from a Western upbringing. There is a wide discourse on this matter (see Libesman, 2007) and it was not a debate I intended to resolve conclusively during this research, but I was led once again to appreciate the value of a dialogue with children themselves in such situations. This process echoes Sen's (1985) capability approach, which advocates the importance of freedom and the influence of individual differences in desires and valuation processes in shaping well-being. However, there is a distinction between effective and respectful discipline which may involve some physical elements, and child abuse. I believe that in most instances my dismay was not the result of my Western socialisation, but an honest reaction to seeing other human beings punished in such a way. The impossibility of imposing universal distinctions between what is and is not acceptable with regards to how, how often, how intensely and in what situation children should be allowed to be physically punished therefore leads me to recognise the value of UNICEF's rejection of any punishment that involves a physical element.

In comparison to the relative muteness of the children with regard to the issue of corporal punishment, the majority of those I interviewed spoke unguardedly about the threat of physical abuse by unknown strangers. For example, Wandile told me that children 'have to run away from adults chasing them […] they want to abuse them, they break windows and doors and chase us'. 'I need protection from the police to punish the abusers;' said Patience*, aged fifteen, 'people are always chasing us'. Like Wandile and Patience, all of the children who lived beyond the forest bordering Lobamba and all but two of those who resided closer to the NCP said that they needed protection from the gangs of 'abusers' who stayed in the forest. The children discussed different manifestations of physical abuse including sexual violence, beatings and murders to obtain body parts for use in witchcraft, with varying degrees of explicitness. For example, Babhekile*, a six-year-old girl, talked bluntly about the dangers of rapes and stabbing, whilst ten-year-old Nozi* was uneasy alluding to the danger of sexual abuse by strange men, saying only that she had 'seen them and their reaction to us'.

Open Discussion and Monitoring, Reporting and Oversight are two elements of this framework that seem both relevant and vital to the improvement of child protection in Swaziland. The elimination of the huge social stigma surrounding AIDS/HIV would dramatically improve the lives of many children who could be given life-saving treatment if diagnosed at an early age. Furthermore, freedom of speech is recognised as a universal human right, and a childhood in a society free from censorship and unequal power relations would transform Swaziland's children's personal and democratic development.

Families and Communities' Capacity to Protect is also a significant factor affecting the quality of children's lives in Swaziland. However, some UNICEF indicators of this seem inappropriate. Firstly, despite the lack of demographic balance, extensive networks of care are strong and effective in caring for the younger members of this society. For example children frequently referred to their 'young mother' or father; an aunt, uncle or other relative who was often very young, and quite possibly deemed as a child themselves by universal statistical measures. Similarly, attendees at the NCP habitually looked out for their younger brothers, sisters and peers, making sure they were on time for the morning prayers and instinctively comforting them if they were upset or hurt. The absence of monetary subsidy from the government was also being compensated in this community by the employment of other strategies such as church and charity groups distributing food and caring for the sick.

Essential Services, particularly the state of education, is another pertinent issue in Swazi society. Formal education does not always seem necessary or appropriate in a society where most adults are employed in manual or agricultural labour and many highly qualified individuals struggle to find work, but both adults and children cited schooling as one of the most important ways that children in Swaziland could be protected. Education was perceived to improve future employment chances and provide important life skills, and was central to many families' aspirations. It will be fascinating to monitor to what degree the extension of formal schooling to wider sectors of Swazi society manages to fulfil these expectations.

The children I worked with had very clear ideas about what they needed protecting from. UNICEF and other international organisations therefore need to acknowledge children's awareness of the world that they are living in, and be sensitive to both cultural norms and children's own perceptions of their lives when trying to implement frameworks such as the Protective Environment. The children's competencies to protect themselves and others and the strong and secure social groups formed in this difficult social situation demand acknowledgement, and policies must be dialogic, based on working with the community rather than the assumption that interventions on their behalf are necessary.

 

Conclusion and Outcome

Swaziland appears to fulfil some, but by no means all, of the UNICEF criteria for providing a Protective Environment for children to grow up in. However, the purpose of this research was not just to examine the extent to which these criteria were being met, but to explore whether these were valid principles upon which to base judgements about how effectively children are being protected within this society. The findings of my case-study in Lobamba indicated that the implementation of some factors would significantly enhance the protection of children in Swaziland. In particular, the encouragement of Open Discussion and the introduction of Legislation and Enforcement advocating children's rights to a secure childhood would greatly improve the situation of many growing up in this developing society. The stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the resulting lack of open discussion was putting many children in this community at risk, both through lack of diagnosis and therefore appropriate treatment, and through the psychological and emotional impact upon children infected or suspected to be infected with the virus. Ensuring that protective legislation, not least that concerning children's access to essential services, has sufficient impact would help to protect many children from the risks that they face in every day life. This will be particularly pertinent in monitoring the way that FPE is implemented, as the government face challenges both foreseen and unforeseen. Currently proving problematic is the issue of compulsory school uniforms which will not be covered by government funding, as well as concerns about the impact of compulsory education in the future upon families' livelihoods, particularly in rural areas.

Other aspects of the model were less fitting to this particular society. Specifically, the factor of Families and Communities' Capacity to Protect is based upon assumptions that appear inappropriate to this particular society where children often enjoy valuable and resilient structures of care despite an absence of the nuclear family unit often portrayed as traditional and thus superior in Western discourse.

This research raised numerous interesting issues regarding the protection of children in Swaziland. Many questions were not easy to answer, especially when it came to judging how the Culture and Customs of this developing society were affecting the lives of its children. However, the sensitive and complex nature of such problems does not mean that we should concede defeat and avoid giving any recommendations for the protection of children, but that we should take extra care in listening and reacting to the opinions of these children themselves. I therefore commend UNICEF for recognising the need for all areas of society to work together in order for government commitments to have sufficient impact, but suggest that the implementation of this framework needs to take into account both the cultural idiosyncrasies of and opinions and perceptions of children growing up within a particular society.

 


 

Acknowledgements

This research was made possible by a grant from the Reinvention Centre at the University of Warwick. With many thanks to Dr Mick Carpenter, Dr Phil Mizen and all staff and volunteers at the Lobamba Neighbourhood Care Point and All-Out Africa, Swaziland.

 

Notes

[1] Lydia Marshall is about to begin her final year as a Sociology undergraduate at the University of Warwick

[2] All names have been changed (no corresponding number in text; note applies to the paper as a whole)

 

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To cite this paper please use the following details: Marshall, L. (2009), ‘Swaziland: A Protective Environment for Children? Utilising and Evaluating the UNICEF Framework in a Developing Society', Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 2, Issue 2, http://www.warwick.ac.uk/go/reinventionjournal/archive/volume2issue2/marshall Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at reinventionjournal@warwick.ac.uk