Tools for Life

Changing lives in Swaziland and the UK

Vulnerable individuals exist in all societies across the globe. They are usually those who have the least access to resources in life and are often women. Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in the world and, although it has a GDP per capita of 3,044 USD, it has made poor progress in human development, ranking at 141 out of 187 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index. Swaziland possesses some of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world. and one of the lowest life expectancies. It is a country that receives little attention and yet has incredible potential.

The McConnell International Foundation is supporting Positive Women to create the Tools for Life project. Our pilot Tools for Life project worked with women who had faced challenges in the UK and women affected by HIV in Swaziland, to create a unique skills exchange programme that changed lives.

We were also grateful for the additional support received for this project from the Sahee Foundation, Community Union, The Feminist Review Trust and the Wales African Community Links fund.

Our pilot project in 2013 brought together women from the UK who have undertaken training in carpentry and women in Swaziland who have identified a market in their communities for wood products. This innovative project enabled all female participants to learn, grow and ultimately improve their future prospects in their respective countries.

Carpentry skills create opportunities for women from all backgrounds to gain meaningful employment or to establish their own business. This is traditionally a male career and, consequently, the number of women in the sector is limited. In Swaziland, carpentry holds enormous potential for women to generate an income for themselves and families. There is a huge demand for wooden furniture, such as benches for classrooms, in the rural areas – a demand isn’t currently met. With carpentry skills, rural women can fill this gap, as well as being able to provide other wooden items that are not readily available in their communities. For participants from the UK, helping women in Swaziland to learn the trade will help to foster their confidence, communication skills and experience of working in a multi- cultural context.

Working with SWAPOL as a local delivery partner and Manzini Industrial Training Centre (MITC) who help to provide the workshop facilities, tools and timber required, this project is enhancing employability and contributing to the sustainable livelihoods.