Lesotho: ‘Shero’ scoops another award

Lesotho: ‘Shero’ scoops another award

Date: June 15, 2015
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Maseru, 15 June: There is a Sesotho saying that goes, Mohale o tsoa maroleng (Heroes rise from hardship). Malerato* is one such ‘shero’. With perseverance and determination she holds her head high, and as the breadwinner is able support her family. Malerato was down and out but is now a successful business woman and also a two-time winner of the Entrepreneurship Award presented at the SADC Gender Protocol@work Summits.

Malerato was married for ten years and had two children- a boy and a girl. She has been separated from her husband for three years due to abuse. “Abuse in my household began right about the same year I got ill and that was towards the end of 2011 and the whole of 2012,” she said.

She was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis, and was hospitalised for three months. Despite her illness, her husband continued to abuse her physically and emotionally. “I looked like an old lady and couldn’t do anything. My husband still wasn’t giving me any support.” Instead Malerato’s neighbors and community members helped her as much as they could. “It’s painful when you marry a person, love them and give them your all, but in the end you get hurt immensely by them,” said Malerato with tears in her eyes.

After Malerato was discharged from hospital, community members and the councilors paid her a visit and introduced her to Gender Links. They explained to her that GL was working with other women who were either in abusive relationships or who had survived gender-based violence (GBV).

GL developed the Entrepreneurship Programme because there is a growing belief that to achieve gender equality, we have to improve women’s economic status. One of the biggest challenges in achieving gender equality is GBV, and economically disempowered women are less able to escape this abuse.

According to the latest Lesotho GBV report by GL, 86% of women interviewed have experienced some form of violence at least once in their lifetime. Like most SADC countries, the most predominant form of GBV is intimate partner violence.

Twenty women around Mapholaneng, in Mokhotlong district, were introduced to GL by the councilors from the Seate council. GL representatives then came back to Mapholaneng, to hold entrepreneurship training and business workshops for the twenty women. The programme, teaches survivors of GBV a combination of applied life and entrepreneurial skills as well as basic business and IT knowledge.

Since the training Malerato started her on business, in which she creates and then sells artificial flowers, which prior to the workshops was just a hobby. She was given the opportunity to then present her business plan at 2014 SADC Gender Protocol@Work Summit in Johannesburg, and ended up scooping the Emerging Entrepreneurship Award.

Malerato said that trip opened doors for her, and contributed to the success of her business. She then partnered up with a woman from South Africa who showed great interest in her flowers. Malerato now exports her flowers to Soweto, where her partner sells them at Maponya Mall. She is very grateful to her partner who helped her open a market for her products in a foreign country.

Malerato’s business has grown to a point where she now has employed several women who assist her in the production of her flowers. She presented the progress of her business at this year’ Gender Summit which came to a close last night after the Awards ceremony at Maseru Sun Hotel, where Malerato scooped the runner up award for the Entrepreneurship category.

“To me, the award means that I am still using the right path for success and it encourages me to put more effort in my work.” She also said she wants to become a driver of positive change in the lives of other women who are in abusive relationships.

Malerato went on to thank GL for being a pillar of strength to her and other women in Lesotho. “I become speechless when I think of what Gender Links has done for me up. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where I would be,” she said.

Malerato left the summit very happy with more determination to improve the lives of her family and the women she is working with.

*not her real name

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





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