Definition of Youth

Swaziland’s national youth policy (2009) defines youth as being those aged between 15-35 years of age.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 21
  • 18
  • XX
  • Female
  • 21
  • 16
  • --

  • Male homosexual acts illegal. Female homosexual acts are not illegal. Under customary law the marriage age for girls is considered to be puberty or the ability to procreate. Source: UNSD, ILGA, UN Child Rights Periodic Report (2006)

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Between 7-14 years, criminal responsibility is dependent on proof of moral understanding of actions and consequences. Source:  UN Child Rights Periodic Report

Majority Age


Age is inconclusive due to differences between Swazi law and custom, and common law. Source: UN Child Rights Periodic Report (2006)

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 93.53% Male (15-24) %
  • 96.02% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 32.26%Male %
  • 37.63% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 15.80% Male (13-15) %
  • 8.60% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
The national youth policy is from 2009. A 2012 youth unemployment briefing exists.

Swaziland’s national youth policy (2009) aims to

create and ensure an enabling environment that develops youth to their full potential, socially, mentally and physically, culturally and spiritually by providing training and economic empowerment, to further the aims of sustainable human development.

The policy outlines objectives and a strategy to achieve these in a number of areas, including; HIV/AIDS; Education, training and skills development; Participation, partnership and leadership; Poverty and unemployment; Drug and substance abuse; Gender equity, equality and gender-based violence; and Sexual Reproductive Health. As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Swaziland is a signatory of The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (PAYE) 2006-2015.  

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Ministry of Sport, Culture and Youth Affairs (MSCYA) aims “to be the recognised authority in developing and promoting the use of sports, arts and culture for youth empowerment and improving the quality of life for all citizens.” The Ministry’s objectives include formulating policy on youth affairs, promote, cooperate with the Swaziland National Youth Council, provide information and promote, research and develop youth empowerment and development. It works with a “coordinated and structured framework to address socio-economic challenges by 2022.”

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The Swaziland National Youth Council (SNYC) is a semi-autonomous youth-led institution that is managed and financed by the government. SNYC is linked to the Tinkhundla system of governance with young people electing members into the Tinkhundla Youth Associations to represent them. The SNYC is a member of the Commonwealth Youth Council. The Swaziland Youth Congress is the youth wing of the banned political party Peoples United Democratic Movement which campaigns to establish a constitutional multi-party democracy in Swaziland. It pre-dates the SNYC.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
The 2013-14 national budget does not make reference to the funding allocation for the Ministry of Sport, Culture and Youth Affairs. According to the World Bank, Swaziland spent 21.01% of its government expenditure and 8.25% of its GDP on education provision in 2011. In the 2013-14 national budget, the Ministry of Education received the largest allocation of all ministries – over SZL 2.1 billion (USD 194.5 million).
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

From the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the Kingdom of Swaziland 2011-2015 (no date):
Swaziland has a relatively high GDP per capita income of US$2,415. Despite this, about 69 per cent of the country’s 1.018 million people live below the national poverty line.
From the Swaziland National Youth Policy (2009):
Swaziland has the highest rate of adult (15-49) HIV infection in the world, with a recent figure at 25.8%. The 2006 research results show an infection rate of 26% for the Youth aged 15-29 years, 40,3% for the Youth aged 20-24 years, 48% for the Youth aged 25-29 years, 42% for the youth aged 30-35 years.
From Swaziland Report on Current and Emerging Youth Policies and Initiatives with Special Link to Agriculture (2013):
...youth is most often excluded from participation in the policy processes yet the policies also have a bearing on the youth. In Swaziland, although 43% of the total population comprises the youth, the current urban and rural structures allow for very minimal participation of the youth in the economic, social and political arena.
From Swaziland’s Struggle with Political Liberalisation (2004):
Both the 1998 and 2003 elections were held after a particularly intense period of confrontation between the government and civil society. The SFTU, the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), the Swaziland Youth Congress (Swayoco), and the NNLC all boycotted the elections because of the government’s failure to respond to demands for political liberalisation.
The Swaziland Youth Congress (Swayoco) also advocates sweeping and rapid change to Swaziland’s political system. The youth movement, which is historically urban, has attempted to reach out to rural areas.
From the Action for Southern Africa Briefing Paper on Swaziland (2010):
The People’s United Democratic Front (PUDEMO) was formed as an opposition party in 1983 with the goal of achieving multi-party democracy in the Kingdom. As political parties are banned, PUDEMO has been operating illegally since its foundation and its leadership and members have been subject to repeated arrests and police violence (see case studies below). PUDEMO’s youth league, the Swazi Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) is in a similar situation.
From the African Economic Outlook report on Swaziland (2012):
Swaziland – like most of Southern Africa – is characterised by an unacceptably high level of unemployment. In 2010, the unemployment rate remained at almost 30% of the labour force, and youth unemployment at more than 52% – far above the 13% rate for people aged 45–64 years (Swaziland Labour Force Survey, 2010).
Unemployment is notably higher in rural areas (51.2%) than in urban areas (23.6%) and among women.
The government has undertaken some steps to tackle youth unemployment. In 2009, Swaziland developed the “National Youth Policy” with a view to “create and ensure an enabling environment for developing youth to their full providing training and economic empowerment....” It established the Youth Enterprise Fund at the end of 2009, aiming at reducing youth unemployment through the provision of business capital for young people (ages 18–35), or associations and companies headed by the youth.
From Labor Markets in Swaziland: the Challenge of Youth Unemployment (2012):
The Swazi people are largely involved in low value added and low paid activities in subsistence agriculture and low-productivity services. Relative to the total population, the youth is even more engaged in low value added and low paid activities such as agriculture and especially community services. The youth is thus underrepresented in high-paying sectors such as the public service, the financial sector and business activities .