Tieang Sefali – Lesotho

Tieang Sefali – Lesotho

Date: September 16, 2015
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Gender Equality is a human right and is everybody’s responsibility

“The time is now for the nation to be free”. These are some of the words of Cllr Sefali when he was first interviewed as a driver of change. “It is very difficult to change old people’s minds. If young people can be taught to be gender sensitive, we are sure of a future generation that is gender sensitive. Women will not be seen as minors but as people who can be trusted to manage the politics of the country.”

Sefali is widely appreciated as a hero in his village. Many people admire his work on gender and how he encourages men to join the theatre group and participate in various gender activities. More people are showing an interest and watching the group’s plays. The plays tackle various gender related issues and the empowerment of women.

Through the plays, people are transforming their lives and Gender Links (GL) is extending its hand to change many peoples’ lives indirectly. More and more people become gender sensitive and support efforts to empower women. Women will no longer be seen as fighting for themselves to overtake men.

Councillor Sefali of Tsana-Talana first interacted with GL in 2011 during the centres of excellence workshops held at the Tsana-Talana Council as part of the local government Centres of Excellence (COEs) programme in Lesotho. He vividly remembers the interaction and could not stop talking about how the workshop opened his eyes. Cllr Sefali laughed as he mentioned that he was a little jealous as some councillors were aware of Gender Links work and were able to answer questions very quickly and he was struggling as GL had been working with them before he was elected as a councillor. But that did not stop him from pursuing what he wanted and he admitted that he realised his potential from that time.

He was elected chairperson of the council and he thought to himself that the councillors could have elected experienced councillors who had been elected for the second time, but they elected him and he was very happy. As chairperson of the council he had to do so many things and he found Tsana-Talana very committed to gender work and that was something very new to him as he did not like the whole idea. He regarded himself as a very difficult and traditional Mosotho man and he wondered how he was going to deal with gender issues.

“Before I became a leader, I thought that it was only men who could make the final decisions and be leaders. Since I became a gender aware leader, I understand that women are very powerful; they can have a say and be leaders too. I ensured that men understand that women are not children and can make the right decisions.” This is what Cllr Sefali said in his first ‘changing lives’. Cllr Sefali mentioned that he enjoyed the first workshop he had with Gender Links and he was able to teach others about many of the issues, especially the ones that he had always questioned.

After the workshop, Cllr Sefali was so empowered that he felt like a whole new person altogether and his attitude changed. His wife and children were very impressed and he mentioned that they just could not believe that it was really him, but they were very happy and he could not stop talking about Gender Links. He had amazing ideas on how best to work with other men in his community, knowing very well how stubborn they were. He was motivated by daily GL work with the community council and he was able to realise that he could also change people’s attitudes. Cllr Sefali attended the GL Protocol at Work summit and won awards twice under the theme of Gender Champion and when he was looking for evidence as part of his applications he was able to see the impact on people he had worked with closely. Although he did not win and proceed to the regional summit, Cllr Sefali was able to access and evaluate his work as a gender champion and he was also able to see how much he has done for people.

Cllr Sefali wanted to see both women and men in all decision making positions and he volunteered as a teacher to teach at the Non-formal Education project for herd boys. This was meant for herd boys, but he felt that it was necessary for women who also were not in schools. He felt that women who are not in schools for different reasons need education as much as herd boys and he fought until that was granted and he was able to teach both women and men. He is very happy that so many people have benefited from that project, especially domestic women, because most of them never thought that one day they would be in a class room, yet Cllr Sefali made it possible for them. When he was teaching these people he discovered that people still believe that only leaders can go to parliament. He realised that women still lack knowledge about gender issues and their role as women and he saw an opportunity in that and made a decision to do something about it.

Cllr Sefali highlighted that it was very difficult for the council to do gender work because the national government does not cater for gender activities and that made their work very challenging as they could not do anything. He thought it was maybe time that he formed his own political party that would respond to all community councils’ cries. He also wanted to empower women as he had realised that they were still behind. When Lesotho held a national election early this year due to the conflict among coalition government partners, Cllr Sefali saw that it was very important for him to form and register his political party. It was a big thing for him and most people did not believe he would do such a big thing and they said he had a nerve as they had always had the mentality that only rich and well known people could form their own political party. His party was very angry with him as they believed that he had betrayed them as he was regarded as a very influential person in his party, but he felt it was time to teach people about more serious and important issues that he had ignored for a very long time. His cry was to empower women.

Cllr Sefali formed and registered his party and called it Community Freedom Movement. He wanted to be the community councils’ speaker in parliament as he had realised that once parliamentarians are elected they forget about councils as they had been singing decentralisation for a very long time. They now believed that there was nothing councils could do if decentralisation was implemented. Although he did not win the elections, he was able to reach many people, especially women and he was happy about the outcome of the elections. His former political party was angry about losing someone like him because they knew him as a very influential and strong person and they tried to make his life very difficult, thinking that he might lose interest and forget the whole process of forming his party. However, he is a very committed person and knows very well how strongly he wanted to push for what he believed and he mentioned that he still believes he could not have done this much if it was not for Gender Links. Every time he wanted to quit he would think of all that he learnt from GL and keep on moving.

His future plans are to continue to work very hard at the council as a gender champion and mobilise people and make sure that his party is well known so that he wins the next election.


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