Development: Are women drivers or passengers?
SEVERAL debate sessions have been held by different agencies; state and non-state alike. The recent of such was a public debate on “Women as Drivers of Development” organised as part of celebration of European Union week.
Interesting and thought provoking presentations made on the role of women and the need to empower and support them continue to inspire activists. What remains unclear, however, is whether women are drivers of development or just passengers?
Besides some strong claims, there is considerable evidence that women in Lesotho and perhaps in other countries play a very significant role in development.
The effort by the Lesotho government in bridging the gap between the boy and girl child in education enrolment is recognised as best globally by the Global Gender Gap Index of World Economic Forum of 2014.
The reservation of a third of seats in community councils for women and the zebra system in the formulation of party proportional representation lists are regarded as positive developments towards empowering women politically.
In Lesotho, it is women who take poverty head on by engaging in self-help projects in the villages such as Khoho Mphelise, Lema u Je which engages in small-scale economic activities.
A considerable percentage of the more than 100 000 small and medium-sized enterprises estimated to be operational in this Kingdom are led by women.
The people who stood firm and provided care, support and fought discrimination against people infected by HIV and AIDS were mostly women.
When the political divide harassed every facet of the social fibre of this nation, including dividing church, the only two grassroot movements that remained immune were the football fraternity and burial societies of which the latter is led by women.
Lesotho has more educated women than men and females in the private sector are running some of the most successful businesses in the Kingdom. Furthermore, women in this country hold different positions of responsibility.
The Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara is female, the Speaker of National Assembly Ntlhoi Motsamai is female, the Governor of the Central Bank of Lesotho Retšelisitsoe Mat- lanyane is female, President of the Lesotho Council of Non-governmentalernmental Organisations Mampho Thulo is female, the Lesotho Highlands Development ment Authority is led by Refiloe Tlali, a woman, the prestigious diamond mining ng company is led by female, the award winning Millennium Challenge Account Lesotho is led by female, Lesotho Sport ort and Recreation Commission ission is led by female, thee National Olympics Comommittee is led by female, ale, a lady who has connvincingly defeated d male competitors on n more than two successive terms of fours years each, many female intellectuals lecture and head departments at the institutions of higher learning, Maseru District Council has been led by female councillor since 2011, many schools are led by female leaders as principals, many female parents have brought up many leaders of today as single parents, the list of convincing women involvement is endless.
But are women drivers of development, passengers or at best chauffeur-driven VIPS in the process that is male dominated?
Perhaps before responding, it might be necessary to define development. Consider- ing that like any other social phenomenon, it may not have single definition development can in general terms be understood as an integrated change of political, social, economic and cultural institutions in line with collective preferences.
Whether the process of change becomes evolutionary or revolutionary is a conscious human action.
When one is the driver of development, which is now known to be a conscious process, determines not only the direction, but speed,
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Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara