Lesotho: Voice of the voiceless

Date: June 29, 2011
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My name is Moleboheng. I live at Ha Tsosang in Maseru and I am 60 years old. I have made my heart a home for orphaned and vulnerable children in my community and my country, where nearly 200 000 children (10% of the population) have become orphans or made vulnerable due to HIV and AIDS.

Since the advent of the disease in the 1990s I have been a volunteer care-giver, and in 2003, as the vulnerability deepened, I founded a support group of about 50 volunteers in my community to offer more structured and sustainable support. I helped the members of the community to provide care and support to over 400 orphans and vulnerable children, nearly 100 elderly and several chronically ill HIV and TB patients.

No child under my care goes to bed hungry and all have the opportunity to access primary, secondary and tertiary education. Losing their parents is no longer the end of the road for these children. Women and children abuse, which was rife in my community, is virtually abolished today thanks to my influence and persistence to protect. I am training and mobilising support for care-givers in other communities to create a network across the country. I feel more people need to get involved.

The arrival of HIV and AIDS, the stigma, the abuse and the death that accompanied the pandemic represented a turning point for me. As a mother of seven, I felt constant ache in my heart for the children who had no one to turn to in their darkest hour. I attribute my passion and dedication to my grandparents, who raised me and taught me to live a productive life and never hang around idle.

I am so passionate about my work with the children. I have managed to mobilise resources including food and second-hand clothing from members of the wider community and from development organisations both local and international. My greatest fear came the day I was forced to choose between one vulnerable child and another. “How can I give for one and not the other, when both are vulnerable?” I lamented.

Some 400 children in the Ha Tsosang community don’t have access to things I take for granted: shelter, food, healthcare, safety, education and above all “love”.

I give thanks to my husband and my children because they are always assisting me in what I am doing. Lesotho, a poor land-locked community, faces high malnutrition rates among child-headed households. Orphans are at greater risk. Many of these children would have died from HIV and AIDS, malnutrition, or neglect. At best they would have faced stunted growth and unproductive lives, posing a danger to their community and their country.

The oldest of the children are now in their third year in tertiary institutions and will soon become graduates. The community has been transformed into a caring and responsive community. The poultry house used for income generating is donated by a community member and the land for the home gardens was donated by the village chief. I influenced my village to rise above their paralysis and join hands to give hope to the less privileged among them. Today, I am fighting for an HIV-free generation.

I shared my home with my children and three orphans who were left behind under very difficult circumstances without any care and support. I was also concerned about elderly people left to care for the orphans despite being destitute themselves.

In December 2006 I won an international award on welfare and child protection. It had been a motivation because it was a sign that the world recognises my efforts. My special thanks to Skillshare International Lesotho that put me on the nomination list.

What I earned from that award was used to pay one year of school fees for all the children in one go. I never had that opportunity before.

This “I” Story is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service special series on care work.

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