Malesoli Lesoli -Kanana Council COE

Malesoli Lesoli -Kanana Council COE

Date: June 30, 2015
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The most memorable experience with Gender Links Malesoli Lesoli had was the first Lesotho National summit held in March, 2013. She had no clue what was going to happen, but she was excited to be part of the summit. She knew people were going to present their work, and she was told that her council was not going to, as it has only joined the programme a few months prior to the summit. They were only called to see how things were, so that they could take a few tips for the following year, when they would be expected to present as they would have completed all the stages of the Centres of Excellence process. Lesoli was excited and nervous at the same time; she could recall Malepota saying, “next year you will be in this pan” and could not stop worrying, while still being very excited.

Malesoli is a council secretary at the Kanana council, where she is responsible for the implementation of the council’s work. She guides councillors in all the decisions that they take. She makes the budget for the council, and it is very difficult since their budget is approved at the district level. When it comes in, it usually does not meet the community or council needs. That has been less of a problem lately; since Kanana joined the COE programme, they were taught how budget in a way that put both women and men’s needs first, regardless of the restricted budget in place. Before this training, Malesoli would just draw up a budget because she had been told to do so, but now she makes sure to get maximum impact out of the resources that come in.

She first learned about gender concepts in-depth when Gender Links held an inception meeting and action planning workshop. She did not regret that day, as she saw some light, and saw the purpose of including gender in her work. She adds that Kanana felt like a driver of change. Lesoli mentioned that she is experiencing change not only at the work place, but even within her family, as she is now well-positioned to make all decisions with her family. At first, some things she would just do alone. She said that her work as whole has changed since GL has given her something to work on. It has uplifted the spirit of her purpose in life and the work place.

Due to the way the local council had been run, there was no clear understanding of how they should operate, their roles, accountability and many other issues. That could not stop them from responding to the needs of the community, but many issues were made more clear thanks to GL, as Lesoli was able to participate in all the COE workshops, and was in a position to assist her council and give it clarity, direction, and purpose. Coucilors were also equipped with knowledge; some cultural barriers were changed as people were able to change their perspectives.

Lesoli described herself as a very hardworking person, and adds that GL has helped her also to gain confidence, realise her capacity, and understand some of the things she would call taboos. She now has a better picture of approaching her own life; she gave the example that her husband is unemployed, and they have problems like any other couple, but she is able to resolve them without even having to argue. She has worked very hard to make her husband realise that he needs to go back to school to further his studies, without making him feel belittled, because she learned better decision making, conflict resolution and leadership skills through GL’s trainings.

She believes she has done so much with the little time she spends with GL, as she was able to she the information with the entire council. This has included helping councillors be gender aware when electing council management. She has worked to raise awareness on gender based violence in her community; most people would not except that from civil servants, but she does this because she has a passion, and GL has brought purpose and direction to her life. During the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, she would go all out to raise awareness and teach people about gender based violence. People in her area think that she is doing more than expected, especially her colleagues who think she is doing a councillor’s job. She believes she is a driver of change, because she changed the council around, and there are many things that are being done in the council because of her initiative. Her community is even convincing her to stand in the coming national elections because they feel that she is more than a council secretary. Manthati Sennane, one of the councillors, thinks that Lesoli deserves to be called a driver of change because she mentioned that Lesoli has done so much for their council. “During our committee elections, we would normally vote for many men. Women would even mobilise other women to vote for men not women, but Lesoli has changed all that.”

Manthati could not stop praising Lesoli; she went on and on about how Lesoli has turned their council around, in a good way. She added that one of their fellow woman councillors was raped and killed, and Lesoli stood up, raised awareness and made sure that the perpetrator brought to book. She described that it was not such an easy task, as she had go around and find out what happened and nag the police to speed up their investigation.

Lesoli likes her job very much, but there are lots of challenges she faces, such as the council not being autonomous, meaning that the decisions they want to make must be discussed with the district council, which delays the process. The roads are very bad, which makes it very difficult for her to travel to all places in the community that she would like to visit. The other problem is a restricted budget, which does not cater for all the activities they would like to hold. She pointed out that there had been a challenge of bad blood between councillors and members of parliament in their area, and that hindered coordinative work in the area, but she is vey proud that now their member of parliament is working hand in hand with councillors.

In her closing, Lesoli mentioned that although it is very difficult to work in local government with few resources, it is worth all the hard work, because people’s lives will never be the same again. She is intending to assist any way she can, as she has always done. She closes with a smile, holding the Gender Links award she won at the District summit as the winner in the category of community councils.

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