Matumelo Maqokela – Lesotho

Matumelo Maqokela – Lesotho

Date: May 29, 2012
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I first met Gender Links at a workshop in my jurisdiction in 2010. It was close to the 16 days of action, and the topic under discussion was around prevention and support for victims of Gender Based Violence. At that time, I was forced to question what I was doing as a police officer. I met with Mpho, the former country facilitator in Lesotho, and we discussed these issues. This planted the seed in my head, and I began to think that one day, I could take more control of the situation of GBV in Lesotho. From then on, I thought I should interact more with Gender Links. I wanted to gain their expertise, because I could see the value that would come from passing it on to the community.

My work is not as simple as people may think. Our duty is to enforce law, but laws are enacted by parliament. Sometimes though, the parliament is not privy to the complaints on the ground. They are not aware of the problems. I would like to see a parliament that comes to the ground offices to decide on laws before they enact these laws. We just arrest perpetrators, but they need to know what the actual complaints are, it’s not always black or white. Most of the time, parliament members are men. And many men are perpetrators. They are birds of the same feather.

I have received so much information through Gender Links; I have only known them for a year, so I haven’t had so many opportunities to engage with the work that they do; but already, I see the value of a partnership. I came to the 2012 Summit, and the experience of networking and information sharing was eye opening. I can see how I will go home and implement what I have learned, and use it to improve what I am already doing. I have now seen that some of the people here network with other ministries. When I went back last year, we formed a team of nurses to fight against GBV. I told them I am from the summit, and I have seen how they are working together, if we work as a team we can go further. We are really doing well. We have meetings with the whole task team in the first week of every month. We coordinate together, we hold public gatherings together. It’s not the kind of thing we could do in isolation of one another, and get the same results.

If the general public were to hear the messages on GBV from all stakeholders, and not just the police, more will be done. People respond differently to different messages, and it’s important that a diversity of messages are communicated. Now that I’ve been sensitized on gender issues, when people are referred to me, I’m able to address the situation from an informed viewpoint, and know how to connect to different people.

Exposure to Gender Links has enabled me to speak up. I’ve learned strategic planning and communications skills. In addition, I’ve learned so much about my own country that I wasn’t aware of before. After last year’s summit, I learned a lot more about my country and the actors in our sectors that I didn’t even know before. Making these connections really enhanced my work. I passed that empowerment from GL to other people. I am doing my best to empower others, so next time we are so many, I can mobilize enough people to learn even more. I am so enthusiastic about this work, and the many opportunities I have seen as a result of connecting with GL. The way information is disseminated through the summit is very useful; bringing people together is invaluable.

After sharing information with people, I see many results. People are interested in GBV, and sometimes it’s something they’ve never considered before. After I tell them what I learn, they go from being disinterested in things like the summit to wanting to come to the summit. It’s good to know that when people see my change, it also incites change in them.

As I leave this 2012 summit, I’m going away with a clear action plan. I want to network with the courts, since this is where cases of GBV are referred to. I would like us to form an advisory group. It is my wish to see GBV eradicated in the Kingdom of Lesotho. I believe we have started the process in my own police station, but there needs to be a lot of follow through for us to have sustainable results. I know we can end GBV, if we all work together.

In the future, I hope Gender Links looks at ways of involving judicial systems systematically in different countries; we need to involve alls takeholders in the eradication of GBV, and the judiciary has a unique and important role to play. I want to see a higher level of coordination in my own country, and hope to start this from my community. Sometimes we interact with the courts or the public prosecutors, when we are on the ground with tangible evidence. They need to be sensitized, and they need to know the issues on the ground. Too often, the men in parliament are the same fish as perpetrators, but we can change them to gender sensitive fish! We need to change them to be our fish, so we can work together. We need to make these changes on multiple fronts, by educating men, by supporting women in parliament, and by raising the awareness of everyone.

It saddens me that some crimes are not reported because of cultural barriers. As police officers, we have a duty to be responsible, and I am working with my own office to make sure everyone is aware, sensitized, and accessible. I have learned a lot from this exposure to practices in other countries. I learned about an initiative from a Zambian delegate who is also a member of the police force. We looked together about what we do when a crime has already been committed. We both agreed that it is a big challenge when crimes are not being reported because of cultural barriers. We want to be responsible police officers.


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