Lesotho: Gender Summit drives the message home

Lesotho: Gender Summit drives the message home

Date: December 1, 2015
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Maseru, 10 June: The third annual SADC Gender Protocol@Work Summit started yesterday at the Maseru Sun Hotel, with a resounding call and response from speakers and participants chanting this year’s theme, “Gender equality now and post 2015! Yes we must!”

Gender Links and the SADC Gender Protocol Alliance are hosting national summits across the region throughout June, while the regional summit will be held in Gaborone, Botswana, ahead of the SADC Heads of State Summit in August 2015. The 2015 SADC Protocol@Work Summits present an opportunity to take stock of the progress made in attaining gender equality and meeting the 28 targets of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development which are expiring this year.

Mathibeli Mokhothu- Lesotho’s Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony. He emphasised the need to put women’s rights at the top of the development agenda post 2015 saying, “As the Protocol reaches its pinnacle, there is mounting global debate on the post- 2015 agenda, and the need to strengthen gender provisions within that.”

Prior to the National summit, Gender Links-Lesotho held two district summits in April 2015 in the Butha District, comprising of Mokhotlong, Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Berea and Thaba-tseka districts; and in Mafeteng District comprising of Qacha’s Nek, Quthing, Mohales’hoek, Mafeteng and Maseru District.

Minister Mokhothu called upon all those attending the ceremony to continue with their gender mainstreaming efforts and the work they are doing for equality. “It is incumbent upon us to take a decisive step to plan beyond 2015. A lot of challenges still face us. It is our collective responsibility to make sure that we realise all the goals as set out in the protocol and fight the inequities that are so rampant within our societies and that put women in particular in a very uncharacteristic position,” said Mokhothu.

Libakiso Matlho, representing Women in Law- Lesotho, presented on the progress Lesotho has made in meeting the SADC Gender Protocol targets, also drawing attention to the decline in women’s representation in political decision-making.

According to the 2015 Lesotho Gender Protocol Barometer, produced by GL and the Alliance, the outcome of the recent 2015 National elections is very disappointing. Only a 3% gain is made in National Assembly where women’s share of seats is 25% (same as between 2007 and 2011).

This shows no progress because it falls far from the minimum 30% target required. Worse still, the share of women in Cabinet has disappointingly declined by 3% (from 22% %after 2012 elections. Currently there are 49% in Local Government, still holding the SADC record for women’s representation in local government, down from 58% in the 2006 elections.

GL Lesotho Manager- Mabetha Manteboheleng said that the new coalition government system is hurting women and the Summit serves as an important opportunity to send the 5050 message home before the 2016 Local Government elections.

“Women are regressing in government representation because of the political parties care only about winning and women are side-lined. We need to keep pushing so people understand the importance of 5050,” explained Manteboheleng.

The Summit brings together not only local government, but also media practitioners, faith-based organisations, emerging women entrepreneurs and other civil society organisations working to advance gender equality. Participants share their good practice and if they win, are recognised with an award from GL, Alliance and country partners.

Mamotsiba Makara from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace is judging the gender based violence (GBV); economic justice; and HIV and AIDS categories. “From the prejudging session I can see people are doing really good work to curb GBV which are also inclusive of men. They are also starting to include community members, chiefs and religious leaders which gives their projects weight.” Makara also praised the Summit, saying it is an important platform to create awareness about gender equality.

GL Board Member- Rethabile Pholo, said he is happy that the Summit is emphasising the post-2015 development agenda saying, “It is a great incentive, and my expectation is that participants are reminded of the importance of the Protocol, but also that gender mainstreaming work must go beyond the Summit.” Pholo also said that due to cultural beliefs in Lesotho, women continue to be treated as inferior. “We must drive the message home with men and find ways to create awareness at grassroots level so everyone understands the importance of gender equality.

The Lesotho National Gender Summit closes after the awards ceremony tonight, and will be concluded by a SADC Gender Protocol Alliance meeting on Thursday.

This article is part of the GL News Service special coverage of the SADC Gender Protocol Summits underway across the region, offering fresh views on everyday news.


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