From births to funerals, life’s major events are a community affair in Swaziland. When the country became an epicenter of HIV with some of the highest rates in the world, it was only natural that a grassroots response to the crisis sprang up from local communities.
On this day a giant tent is erected at a village crossroads with chairs and benches set beneath. Neighbors make their way along the road to come together, find their seats and join in an afternoon of skits, speakers and dance groups. The frankness of the events, both educa_tional and enter_taining, elicits gasps and laughter, and signals one community’s will to shatter the taboos of HIV.
– Christina Jill Granberg ©2015
Peace Corps Volunteer (HIV/AIDS education and community development), Swaziland, 2003-05
Swaziland/Kingdom of Swaziland
In southern Africa. Mostly mountains and hills; some moderately sloping plains; between Mozambique and South Africa. 17,364 km2 (slightly < NJ), 10% arable.
Capital Mbabane (pop est. 0.04M)
Population 1.4M (161/km2)
Life expectancy 43 years
Languages English (official), siSwati
Religions Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 10%, other (includes Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish) 30%
Ethnic Groups African 97%, European 3%
PCVs 1969-96; 2003–present, health education and HIV/AIDS awareness (Volunteers in country: 70; total to date: 1,445)
Nat’l holiday Somhlolo Day (Independence Day) 6 September (1968)