Two nurses from Swaziland have won an international award for their outstanding commitment to human rights and nursing in the kingdom.
A joint award went to Masitsela Mhlanga and Thabsile Dlamini. It was given by the International Centre for Nursing Ethics.
Mhlanga and Dlamini are leading members of the Swaziland Nurses Association and have worked to support the welfare and working conditions of nurses in Swaziland which has one of the world’s highest levels of HIV/AIDS.
Their award was announced at the 10th Human Rights and Nursing Awards on 8 September 2011 at the International Centre for Nursing Ethics conference, held at the University of Surrey, UK.
Organisers of the award say Mhlanga and Dlamini have worked together for many years in the Swaziland Nurses Association (SNA). Swaziland has the world’s largest proportion of people suffering from HIV/AIDS. It also has an extremely low ratio of nurses to population (35 nurses per 100,000 of population).
As president of the SNA, Mhlanga led the kingdom’s first-ever nurses’ strike in 1999. The strike improved the status of the SNA and allowed nurses to sit in collective bargaining chambers and negotiate conditions of service, including salaries. Mhlanga’s ongoing political work has helped to secure a near 50 percent rise in nurses’ salaries and other benefits for all civil servants.
Mhlanga has also established a Wellness Centre for health care workers affected by HIV/AIDS. The Centre is funded by a combination of organisations (including the International Council of Nurses and the Danish Nurses Association). It has since been replicated in a number of southern African countries.
As the general secretary of the SNA, Dlamini spearheaded the revision and drafting of the Association’s new constitution. In 1992, the new draft established the SNA as an independent, democratic and professional organisation with bargaining and lobbying powers. Dlamini pioneered the composition of the patient rights charter and she led negotiations to ensure that nurses get protective clothing in certain situations.
Dlamini also inspired the creation of the Girl Child Education Trust. The GCEF supports the primary and secondary schooling of girls under the age of 18 in developing countries whose nurse parent or parents have died. According to the latest data (February 2011), the trust supported 226 girls in Zambia, Kenya, Swaziland and Uganda.
The International Centre for Nursing Ethics director Dr Ann Gallagher said, ‘The awards recognise the achievements of exemplary nurses who contribute to the flourishing of vulnerable patients and marginalised groups.
‘Nurses are often the unsung heroes of healthcare and are too rarely recognised as they go quietly about their work, often in very challenging circumstances. The awards represent a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the contribution of nursing in a global context and of a few outstanding individuals.’