Eswatini is one of the most gender unequal countries in the world (ranked 150th by UNDP in 2015). One in three girls experience sexual violence before their 18th birthday (UNICEF 2007), whilst the small sovereignty also has the highest HIV & TB prevalence in the world, at 31% of adults (SHIMS 2011) leaving over 220,000 orphaned or vulnerable minors (PEPFAR 2015). Women and children bear the brunt of these combined, now normalized, epidemics, whilst, in comparison, men enjoy a century-old patriarchal privilege.

This underlying gender inequity impedes every other development goal. Equal access to life-saving health services, human and child rights and economic, community and family strengthening all rely on a more equal society. For a decade the HIV response has been gender-biased but more young men are dying HIV-related deaths than ever before (UNAIDS 2015) and still men are rarely ever directly engaged by development programs.

A vital piece of the puzzle is still missing: we are not involving men.

In response, Kwakha Indvodza (meaning ‘Building a Man’) is Eswatini’s only male mentoring non-profit organization. A quickly growing NGO, KI specializes in community-led, health and behaviour change interventions with men and boys. By establishing community-based, youth-friendly safe spaces, KI offers young men a range of services including life skills training, counselling and health services.

At Kwakha Indvodza we believe that men and boys are not just the cause of, but potentially the solution to, the disempowerment of women and girls, poor health and, ultimately sustainable community development.

KI’s youth centres use games, media, gender-transformative dialogues and participatory behaviour change methods to encourage respectful and responsible masculinity and gender-equitable attitudes, especially in relation to youth Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights services & violence prevention. Through a fun, inclusive curriculum of financial literacy, male health and social responsibility activities, KI creates resilient, healthy, gender-equal change-makers who will in turn mentor and grow women and other men in their communities.

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