Motheba Makara Mpota – Maseru

Motheba Makara Mpota – Maseru

Date: May 29, 2012
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When I first met Gender Links, they were evaluating the media reporting on gender issues in Lesotho.  I am an independent journalist and broadcaster in Maseru, and I work as a consultant, so their work was right up my alley.  That meeting was organized by WLSA and was on sensitization of gender reporting in the country. To my memory, my first reaction to Gender Links was that finally there were people who understood gender and could help us to get the information out to the public, so people know what GBV is and what gender is as a concept. My mother is a gender activist, I was born and bred in a gender sensitive family.

I have my own company and under that company we have the Think Project, we deal with gender and children with disabilities and we are currently dealing with GBV. We are teaching parents how to handle their children who are physically and mentally challenged, so they are able to report when they are abused. This work requires teaching children to know their bodies so that they are able to report when they are touched in a way they know is not right. The degree of disability differs from profound to moderate. The reporting mechanisms differ form the police, chiefs, parents to the highest levels of judiciary, we are trying to teach the children to be independent, so they are able to represent themselves, for them to speak for themselves. We want them to be able to vote, taking into consideration the different disabilities. The work that I do is informed by GL and has been for years.

I have been associated with Gender Links for a decade now. There is great value in their work, and it is growing big. We lose track here and there such that every time there are new people coming in we have to start all over again in Lesotho. The increase of programmes, starting with media has been amazing. When we were reviewing the Lesotho barometer, that was wonderful. My hope is that the programs continue to expand in nature and scope, including the issue of gender and disability. In every country there are people with mental disabilities, and they are being neglected and people are suffering. There are so many levels of marginalisation, and as gender activists, we should be especially aware of this.

My work with Gender Links is of a very personal nature. I myself am the parent of a child who is mentally challenged. My daughter was not born with this challenge, however. She was born premature, and while in hospital, the nurse removed her from oxygen too early. The result was life changing. I was told that she would never walk and speak or learn – but now she is doing those things on her own. She is handling her own hygiene well on her own. I usually take her to parents I am working with so they can see that it is possible to raise the child and that they should not lose hope. They will need to survive on their own. Empowering my daughter has been difficult, but I now see her as a beacon of hope to all other mothers raising children with the same challenges as mine. I also feel strongly that there needs to be more focus on teaching these children about their rights, especially when it comes to GBV, because they are particularly vulnerable.

Gender Links helped me a lot when I was still a young reporter. I am now able to teach young people on gender sensitive reporting. I am able to stand as a gender activist with my head high because of Gender Links. When we were advocating for 50/50 for women in parliament in Lesotho, it was so exciting. We were at logger heads with the men in the higher positions, and it was very challenging and exciting. We were able to know how men perceive us as women, and also that women do not feel that they will make it to parliament; that was in 2007. They are now positive that they can stand on their own two feet. We had the first woman speaker and we went for the local government elections and we had seats reserved for women and we had women councillors. That’s when I really felt that changes in life have been tangibly evident. I can see the climate changing. Lesotho still has a high percentage of women in Local Government even with the figures dropping in the last election.

All the different fora that we have had with Gender Links have made me aware that as a journalist, there is something I can do. That is how I managed to be one of the strongest activists in Lesotho. There is a long way to go before I am fully independent. I hope there will be more future links between Gender Links and on the ground activists; that will move Gender Links from strength to strength. I am sad when sometimes there’s a disjuncture between the messages Gender Links brings, and people on the ground. I have built such a strong relationship with GL that it is never a problem. But I also know many are still trying to build this rapport. I know in past years, GL was very active through WLSA, but I’m not sure if this is the case; sometimes, energy changes quickly. More young people should get involved in the work that’s being done; that would build consistency, and sustainability in the future.

Colleen Lowe-Morna has been an inspiration in the work I’ve done with Gender Links. I think mainly because I know where she started. There was a time when she would call and say “People do not accept me”, and she kept going until today, when she has this big organization. I think of giving up along the way, especially because we don’t have funding. But she keeps me going. WLSA, women in my community and a principal of a community center which has a school for disabled children are also responsible for keeping me going in my day to day activities, and in my dreams and aspirations.

People grow as I grow, they change as I change. I have many cases of parents with children with disabilites who hide their children. Sometimes people are in denial about their children. But I train them and educate them, we go through all the therapies and all the challenges that they may encounter. We don’t advocate for institutionalization, we rehabilitate the children, the parents and the communities. In my own growth and strength I see the growth in others. I would like to see my work rolled out in different districts and I would like the scope to be widened.

In my personal future, I would like to have independent children with disabilities, and I would like them to get technical or vocational training. I would like to see them receive assistance in managing their own lives and to be able to generate income, and be taught how to manage those finances. When the children become teenagers, they may be sexually active, they may want to get married. I would like to see an institution to work with the families specifically to see how the families are run. There will be a way of monitoring their lives and assisting here and there. Government can understand that these things happen from outside actions. I would like to see the law makers take the issue seriously and enact policies for the people I advocates for. I need assistance and they should sensitize all the key stakeholders on GBV. It is very important. People with disabilities are people too.

In conclusion, I hope GL brings about a program on gender and people with disabilities. There are many problems in the remote and rural areas in the country. In Maseru there is action taking place, but outside, there is no one. Even the boys with disabilities are molested, and there is need to educate the children. It needs urgent attention.


One thought on “Motheba Makara Mpota – Maseru”

I like what you are doing mama Matheba Makara, more especially for people who are disable and being discriminated as if they have asked to be born disable, more aspecial when they are young becouse communities take advantage of them and abuse them in many kinds, and it does not end there even when they are looking for jobs they are being treatised. Am one of disabled people and I was denied an opportunity to train so that I become one of SAPS worker because of my disability

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