This week we are rolling out “True Love Waits” to all of our Carepoint kids...well, the ones that are not attending the Reed Dance. TLW is a way to educate children that they should wait until marriage to have sex. Our hope is that through love and education, we can start to change statistics here in Swaziland-decrease the teen pregnancy rate and decrease HIV infections.
The Swazi culture is ok with topless women. The Reed Dance is a traditional opportunity for Swaziland's maidens to pay tribute to the Queen Mother. Although the King has used the occasion to choose wives a few times,(He currently has 13 wives) the ceremony is not about him primarily. The king's own children partake in this event.
The annual Umhlanga(oom-shlawn-gah) (Reed) Dance is an assembly of about 20,000 young maidens (recently reaching 100,000) who bring tall (4 m) reeds to present to the Queen Mother. These reeds are then used to build windbreaks around the Queen Mother's residence. The Reed Dance usually lasts for a week and the king only attends the last day as a sign of respect to his mother. He also uses the occasion to thank the young girls who have traveled long distances to attend the event by slaughtering cattle and presenting them with a feast before they return home. During the week; men, women, boys and girls “camp” out. There are a number of celebrations, but the biggest is that all of the young maidens wear traditional attire and are topless.
We do not speak out on politics, culture, or history here. Our prayer is simply that for those families that participate in the reed dance activities would appreciate a lifestyle of abstaining and waiting for marriage-and true love.