Le­sotho scoops African Gen­der Award

. . . as govt pushes for abol­ish­ment of mourn­ing cloth

Lesotho Times - - News - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

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.”

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