Sanibonani, welcome to Nozipho Hlophe’s summer in Eswatini!

by Nozipho Hlophe

Join me on this journey as I uncover the magic of Eswatini, one story at a time. I will take you through the exciting and enriching experiences of my summer spent at UNDP Eswatini.

A collection of moments in Eswatini

Nurturing Change in the Heart of Africa

As the summer sun cast its warm embrace over the picturesque landscapes of Eswatini, I embarked on a life-altering journey — a journey that would immerse me in the heart of development work and communication at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Eswatini.

Eswatini, officially known as the Kingdom of Eswatini, is a small, landlocked country located in southern Africa. It is nestled between South Africa to the west and Mozambique to the east. With a population of approximately 1.1 million people, it is one of Africa’s smaller nations.

Eswatini is known for its rich cultural heritage and is one of the continent’s last remaining absolute monarchies. King Mswati III serves as both the traditional and constitutional leader of the nation. The monarchy plays a central role in Eswatini’s identity, and the country is characterized by vibrant ceremonies, colourful festivals, and a strong sense of cultural pride.

The country’s landscape is diverse, featuring rolling hills in the Highveld region and lush lowland valleys. Eswatini is also home to several national parks and reserves, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Eswatini is located in the capital city, Mbabane. Mbabane is one of the largest cities in Eswatini and serves as the country’s administrative center. The UNDP office in Mbabane would typically be situated in proximity to other government offices, embassies, and international organizations.

UN House Eswatini

The 19th of June I touched down in the picturesque city of Mbabane. My first day in the office, June 20th, was filled with a mix of excitement and anticipation. To my delight, my very first assignment turned out to be something truly special — the Youth in Agricultural Indaba. This event was hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and received support from various government ministries (Ministry of Economic Planning and Development MEPD), United Nations (UN) and UNDP Eswatini.

The Youth in Agricultural Indaba was more than just a conference; it was an initiative aimed at empowering the youth of Eswatini to actively engage in agricultural practices and contribute to food security and sustainable development. It was an event where young minds would come together to learn, share ideas, and explore innovative solutions for the agricultural sector.

As I delved into my role, I found myself at the heart of this dynamic event. My tasks ranged from logistical support to helping coordinate workshops and engaging with the inspiring young participants. I witnessed firsthand the enthusiasm and passion of the youth as they discussed the challenges and opportunities in agriculture, all with the aim of making a positive impact on their country’s future and addressing youth unemployment.

Youth in Agriculture Indaba 2023

One of the most remarkable aspects of my summer was the opportunity to support various functional units within UNDP Eswatini. These units were the driving force behind projects related to inclusive economic growth, environmental sustainability, participatory and effective governance, and sustainable development.

Eswatini, like many other countries, grapples with a pressing issue: youth unemployment. This challenge is particularly pronounced among young people aged 15 to 35, where unemployment rates have soared. The youth bulge in Eswatini’s population is both a potential asset and a concern. While young people possess the energy, creativity, and potential to drive change and innovation, the absence of economic opportunities can lead to disillusionment and a sense of disconnection.

At the core of both the Government of Eswatini and the United Nations Development Programme’s concerted endeavors to address the pressing issue of youth unemployment, resides an impactful and transformative initiative known as the Eswatini Youth Empowerment Programme (EYEP). With the aim to equip young Swazis with the skills, knowledge, and opportunities they need to actively engage in the country’s development, EYEP represents a beacon of hope in a landscape where youth unemployment poses a significant challenge.

EYEP is designed as a holistic response to these challenges. It provides young people with a platform to acquire the skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary to enhance their employability and entrepreneurial abilities. The program offers a range of training opportunities, including vocational skills development, entrepreneurship training, and mentorship. Upon successfully completing the program, graduates are not left to navigate the job market alone. Instead, they are strategically placed in both the private and public sectors for a six-month internship, where they can put their newly acquired skills into practice and gain valuable real-world experience. This internship period serves as a bridge between their education and professional careers, offering a smoother transition into the workforce. It’s a practical approach that empowers graduates to thrive in their fields, contributing to Eswatini’s economic growth and development.

EYEP extends a lifeline to those who were unable to complete their formal education, offering them a valuable opportunity through Artisanal Skills Training. This programme is thoughtfully crafted to impart practical, hands-on skills, empowering young individuals to achieve self-reliance. The spectrum of artisanal skills covered by the programme ranges from carpentry and welding to tailoring and plumbing.

One of the most significant milestones in EYEP’s journey was the induction and graduation ceremony. This event was not merely a celebration of academic achievement; it was an induction preparing graduates for placements in different industries and sectors. My role was to develop a comprehensive strategy to publicize the inaugural graduation ceremony in collaboration with the Eswatini government’s spokespersons office. Our strategy involved a multifaceted approach, including social media campaigns, press releases, and collaboration with local media outlets to ensure publicity and maximum dissemination. The goal was not only to celebrate the graduates but also to inspire other young individuals to pursue their dreams and contribute to the nation’s progress.

EYEP First Cohort and Artisinal Graduates

Exploring the Tapestry of Eswatini: A Journey Through Culture and Landscape

As I ventured into this enchanting kingdom, I found yourself immersed in a world of natural beauty and traditions that have been cherished for generations.

The Malolotja Canopy Tours offer a breathtaking and exhilarating adventure set against the backdrop of Eswatini’s pristine natural beauty. As you embark on this unique journey, you’ll find yourself suspended high above the forest floor, traversing a series of suspended bridges and ziplines that crisscross the lush canopy of the Malolotja Nature Reserve.

As you glide from one platform to another, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the reserve’s rugged mountains, dense forests, and cascading waterfalls. The sensation of being amidst the treetops, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the wilderness, is a truly immersive encounter with nature.

The Malolotja Canopy Tours are not only an adventure for the thrill-seekers but also an opportunity to appreciate the sheer beauty and biodiversity of Eswatini’s landscape. It’s a chance to witness the untouched wilderness from a perspective few get to experience.

Malolotja Nature Reserve
Malolotja Nature Reserve

Journeying into the heart of Eswatini’s rich cultural heritage, a visit to the Mantenga Cultural Village is like stepping back in time. It’s an immersive experience that invites you to explore and appreciate the Swazi way of life, celebrating traditions that have been passed down through generations. Upon arrival at Mantenga, I was greeted by the vibrant colors and rhythmic beats of traditional Swazi dances and music. The cultural village is a living testament to Swazi customs, with huts constructed in the traditional style.

Emtini Cultural Centre’s remote location away from the city lights revealed a sky adorned with countless stars. The sky transformed into a canvas of warm, fiery hues as the sun dipped below the horizon. Silhouettes of the surrounding hills and the traditional Swazi huts added to the scene. It was a moment of profound serenity and awe, as I witnessed what could only be described as the most beautiful sunset. The colours shifted from shades of orange to deep purples.. The owner of Emtini treated me to a delectable array of traditional Swazi dishes prepared with love.

Mantenga Cultural Village and Emtini Cultural Centre

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