Women ready to take up leadership roles in Lesotho

Women ready to take up leadership roles in Lesotho

Date: April 25, 2012
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While women remain close to parity with 49.1% representation in local councils, the upcoming national elections may also bring an increase in women’s representation in governance structures at the national level.

Women and men will contest for parliamentary seats in the upcoming national elections on May 26. Women are currently only 23.5% of the members of Parliament, but Lesotho delegates to the third annual Gender Justice and Local Government Summit in Johannesburg, expressed optimism that women will gain more seats. Gender Links (GL) convened the summit under the banner “365 days of local action to end violence and empower women.”

“In the 2005 elections we held government -supported workshops educating women on empowerment and leadership. Gender Links, also held various workshops that encouraged women to stand and make their voices heard. We are confident there are educated women in Lesotho who can change this country for the better,” said Malepota Mafeka, the GL country manager.

“I have personally encouraged an educated woman I support to be my leader and I will cast my vote for a woman candidate,” said ‘Makabelo Dolo, a senior citizen, who added that women have joined politics and “they are keen to lead.”

The national elections will be contested in a mixed constituency and Proportional Representation (PR) system.
The country’s second local government elections took place in October 2011. Lesotho has used two different electoral systems with reserved seats to retain its ranking with the largest proportion of women’s representation in local government within the SADC region.

“Lesotho is very new in the local government elections,” said the Chief Technical Officer of Lesotho’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and GL board member, Rethabile Pholo at the third annual Gender Justice and Local Government Summit and Awards. Lesotho held its first local government elections in 2005.

In the 2005 elections, 30% of the seats were reserved for women using the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) electoral system. Elections held under this system yielded 58% women representation and 42% men.

Following a legal challenge to this quota system in the High Court, officials from the IEC, political parties and the local government ministry went to Tanzania on a study trip after which the country adopted a new system for the 2011 elections and amended the electoral law.

“When we could not reach a quota, we visited Tanzania to learn how their election system works, because it is the best by far,” Pholo said. A model was adapted that worked in the country’s favour, he added.

The new system borrows from the Tanzanian electoral model and is a mixed system. One part of the system comprises reserved seats for women (one-third of the seats per constituency), while the remainder of the local government seats are contested through the FPTP system.
Local government is comprised of 87 local authorities in Lesotho. In the new demarcation of local authorities for the 2011 elections, there is one Municipal Council, the City of Maseru, 11 urban councils, 10 district councils and 65 community councils.

The decline in the women’s representation is due to women’s lack of independence within their homes, Pholo said. “Women in Lesotho still have to ask for permission from their husbands to play their role in society as female leaders. In turn, men continue to take advantage by denying them that opportunity. It is evident that Lesotho has a long way to go to impart knowledge at the grassroots level where women are,” the IEC Chief Technical Officer added.

“If all women are equally empowered and conducive conditions are provided for them, then women will get in and after 2015, the world will be a better place.”

‘Malisema Mahloane is a journalist with BAM media in Lesotho. This article is part of GL Opinion and Commentary Service, special news and analysis series of the 2012 Gender Justice and Local Government Service.


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