HRH Princess Sikhanyiso who is also the traditional leader of all Swazi maidens has for a long time felt an urge to engage herself for the betterment of the young woman in Swazi society.
She is painfully aware of the numerous challenges that they face, challenges that are unique to them and have a far-reaching bearing on society in general.
Every year at the time of the Umhlanga Reed dance, a unique and very colourful annual event held in the Kingdom of Swaziland during the last week of August or first week of September, tens of thousands of maidens from all regions and all sectors of society gather at Lobamba, the traditional capital of Swaziland and seat of the Queen Mother's residence.
They gather as equals to pay homage to the Queen Mother, the mother of the King and Co-regent, to pledge to keep themselves pure and show off that purity with pride. This event is the one time they take centre stage for all to see and they use this stage to sing and dance the traditionally choreographed performance with songs mainly passed on to them from the girls before but also often self-composed expressing their personal challenges in song and accentuated with unique dance moves.
This is an occasion to show off, make new friends and share experiences that help in the individual's growth. This once-a-year event is what inspired the Imbali Foundation concept of empowerment for the girl child. Here the different personas are all meeting and forming one unit allowing each to shine and excel. The Imbali Foundation wants to take this enabling environment a step further using deep-rooted traditions and modern knowledge to effectively empower.
The Foundation is an initiative of HRH Princess Sikhanyiso and was founded as a way of helping to address the unique set of problems and challenges that the Girl Child is faced with in Swaziland. The Imbali Foundation will be using deep rooted traditions and structures to address today’s predicaments.
The Foundation’s mission is to foster feelings of self-worth in the Girl Child, raising enlightened, respectful, and strong-willed women in every region and to nurture and actuate the hopes and dreams of the Girl Child. The Foundation was envisioned to impart the idea that in diversity, there is beauty and strength.
One out of every six people in the world is an adolescent girl, equivalent to 600 million people or about 16% of the world's population. Global research has shown that empowerment of girls can to lead to the following outcomes which exert a broader and far-reaching impact on society.
Efforts to improve the status of adult women have proven very difficult because it is extremely hard to facilitate the means for empowerment at an older age. Therefore, girls must be the focus of attention.
However, girls are neither just women nor just children, and therefore to confront issues affecting girls requires a unique set of tools that can be applied specifically to them. The Imbali Foundation aims to provide and instil within young women the means for elevating their social status.
Education, Knowledge and Leadership skills
These skills provide young women with the motivation and social savvy to confront the system of patriarchy, which has perpetuated violence against women for years. By giving young girls a voice and a space, the Imbali Foundation provides them with the necessary strategies to be aware of and claim their rights and thus participate in the process of national development.
Eight common problems that prevent girls from progressing:
All these problems lead to a sense of hopelessness and feeling of despair, which tend to lead the young girls astray.
Five areas of engagement
In all the areas of engagement, the Imbali Foundation will build a foundation of faith, making the child aware that she is a gift of God no matter in what circumstances, thus allowing the child to develop her faith and her confidence and with it a deeper trust in God and what it all means to the child. Helping her as she follows her path, struggles and combats her challenges confident that there are never easy ways but it’s easy when seen in the light of Trust, Hope, Faith, Respect and Love. These virtues will be emphasized without making a bias or judgment of any denomination or faith.
A girl child does not exist in isolation. There are men, women and boys whose attitudes, beliefs and harmful cultural as well as modern practices can undermine the empowerment of the girl child. To counter this it needs to be talked about. In this way, communities develop a sense of responsibility for the survivors of gender-based violence or abuse. Many community organizations exist to coordinate efforts to reduce the impact of HIV and gender violence on the girl child. To make this a lasting impact on the whole community, the Imbali Foundation will engage with these organizations in workshops, seminars and advocacy events.