Positive About Women in Swaziland

Jack McConnell
August 19, 2013

I am in Swaziland this week to support and assess a new development project called Tools for Life. All the hard work has been done by Wales-based charity Positive Women, and the McConnell International Foundation has supported the pilot underway this month. I will try to Blog here on what I see, and on life in this part of the world.

In May 2012, I took part in a campaign called Live Below the Line for a second time. My main objective was to raise awareness about the international scandal that is extreme poverty. Twelve years into the 21st Century, over 1 billion people still lived on less than £1 a day – with no decent access to health services, education or – in many cases – basic safety from violence, rape or fear. Our campaign highlighted this and demanded more urgent action to deal with it.

The Global Poverty Project led the Live Below the Line Campaign and they keep the issue of global action on extreme poverty on the agenda and deserve support. However, unlike in 2011, I decided to raise money for a specific project rather than the campaign. I wanted to try something different and test a practical idea that might change lives for desperately poor people, but also change lives here in the UK too.

So, Tools for Life was born. The money I raised by living on £1 a day for 5 days was allocated to a pilot project to test if there was merit in linking young people with limited opportunities here in the UK with those wanting a chance to learn skills and earn money in sub-Saharan Africa.

This month a group of young women from the UK, who are all in the later stages of training to become carpenters, are in Swaziland to spend some weeks working with Swazi women affected by HIV/Aids who reject dependency and want to learn skills that will help them earn a living making benches, tables, fences and of course coffins.

I am a Patron of Positive Women, the wonderful Welsh/Swazi partnership charity behind this pilot. Supported by the McConnell International Foundation, they have identified the UK women, the Swazi partners and made all the arrangements. We believe that this model can make a difference: that it can change lives in the UK by widening horizons, developing skills and building confidence; and transform lives in Swaziland and elsewhere by challenging orthodoxies and training people to be self-reliant and successful.

Many people have helped make this happen: all who gave me donations to Live Below the Line in 2012; those who have advised Positive Women; and those who have donated tools or helped with flights. All of you have given this ‘thing’ a chance. All over the world there is an understandable focus on formal education – early years, schools and exams, universities. But there is also a real need to inspire hope and opportunity for those who choose a different path.

This month Positive Women and McConnell International Foundation are starting something that we believe can go a long way. More soon.


PN Member Jack McConnell is former First Minister of Scotland and currently serves as Chair of the All Party-Parliamentary Group on the African Great Lakes Region,Member of the All Party-Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues,and Executive Member of the All Party-Parliamentary Group Africa.


Originally published by Lord McConnell on Lords of the Blog.

Photo by breadfacej.

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