Lesotho scoops African Gender Award
. . . as govt pushes for abolishment of mourning cloth
LESOTHO has been recognised as one of the continent’s top performers in the advancement of the economic and social rights of women.
This was revealed this week by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing during a press conference in Maseru, in which he revealed Lesotho won the 2016 African Gender Award along with 29 other countries at the 27th African Union Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda from 17 to 18 July 2016.
The theme of the summit was: “2016: African Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the Rights of Women.”
Sponsored by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank, the African Gender Scorecard measures the performance of gender equality and women’s empowerment on the continent.
The deputy premier said the accolade should be a source of pride for Basotho.
“Like the theme stated, Lesotho is one of the 30 countries which were awarded the 2016 African Gender Award for being among the leading countries in women’s empowerment,” Mr Metsing said.
“This is a welldeserved award and every Mosotho should be proud of the accolade, as we know that in every sector women are not only dominating in numbers, but performing with flying colours.”
Asked if the high prevalence of genderbased violence (GBV) in the country was overlooked in the awarding of the accolade, Mr Metsing conceded GBV was a lingering prob- lem in Lesotho.
“It cannot be denied that gender-based violence is a serious problem, and it is high time we came up with stricter laws to address the challenge. This is because, in most cases, women are on the receiving end of the violence,” he said, adding that all law enforcement agencies and members of the public should work together to nip GBV in the bud.
“Once GBV cases are brought before the courts of law, (judges and magistrates) should promptly make their rulings to set an example for potential offenders.
“The media also has a role to play. They should condemn GBV in their reports. As the government, we condemn such conduct and will not tolerate it.”
Meanwhile, Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu has pointed to some traditional practices as the primary causes of GBV. In his address ahead of the African Women’s Month commemorations this week, Mr Mokhothu said some Basotho traditions were enslaving women and negatively affecting their self-esteem and dignity.
The African Women’s Month commemorations are held as a tribute to the more than 20 000 South African women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.
In Lesotho, the celebrations are being held under the theme: “Emancipation against all forms of discriminatory traditions and norms.”
“I challenge every Mosotho to unlock all the chains preventing Basotho women from fully participating in economic, political and social issues,” Mr Mokhothu said.
“For instance, only men can inherit family properties which is a very discriminatory law that should be rooted out of our society. It perpetuates poverty and hatred among family members and, in some cases, leads to deaths. As we celebrate 50 years of Independence, we need to move away from these shameful laws.”
The minister said it was unfortunate most people still believed women were inferior as leaders compared to men.
“Some women who participate in politics are often branded with derogatory names like prostitute, making them hesitant to contribute to society. The truth of the matter is ability and wisdom are not defined by gender.”
He also took a swipe at the cultural requirement for women to wear a mourning cloth (thapo) following the death of their spouse or children.
“Some of the cultural rules imposed on women during the mourning period put them at a disadvantage, considering they may need to go to work,” said Mr Mokhothu.
“If wearing a mourning cloth is such a good practice, both women and men should wear it. If it is not good for men, then it is not good for women and must be abolished.”