Policy Brief | Local Government Reports | Training reports

Once held up as the shining star of women’s political representation at the local level, the proportion of women in local government in Lesotho has steadily declined from 58% in the first local elections in 2005, to 49% in 2011 to 40% in the September 2017 elections. This steady downward trend has taken place despite changes in the electoral laws to address concerns about the quota for women’s political participation in the first local government elections in 2005. It dims the hope of Lesotho achieving 50/50 by 2030 in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Lesotho is now third (after Namibia and South Africa) in the SADC ranking of women’s participation in local government.

Lesotho has a Mixed Electoral System of First Past the Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR) at the national and local levels with a 30% legislated quota at the local level. This has enabled Lesotho to make progress in the past especially at local level.  At national level, Lesotho missed the opportunity in the June 2017 snap national elections to escalate the 30% quota on a PR basis at local level to the national level. The Lesotho parliament comprises 120 seats. Eighty are filled on a First Past the Post (FPTP) basis while the remaining seats are distributed among parties on Proportional Representation (PR) system. Parties are required to have at least one third women on these lists.

There are no quotas for women at political parties’ level. As a result, women continue to be subjected to a political environment that is unkind towards women standing alone on their own. The major challenges include attitudes, culture and beliefs for women’s authority within decision-making positions to be acknowledged. There is often intense verbal abuse that women undergo when standing for elections.

Women continue to occupy low ranking positions within political parties, or they are confined to women’s wings where their primary responsibilities are to mobilise membership and support for the party – usually on behalf of men candidates. As such women usually miss the chance to be included on the lists as such decisions are done by the National Executive Committee, which usually lacks women.

In Lesotho, women are generally economically independent in relation to their male counterparts. However, within political office they remain within lower positions that prevent them from being visible.  Technical capacity to effectively carry out the duties and responsibilities at local government level remain a challenge for women in Lesotho as literacy levels remain quite high. There is need to close this capacity gap between men and women.

Lesotho has done very well at the local government elections in the past, however, in the face of coalition governments in which implementation of such policies are weak, there has been a drop from 25% to 23% women in Parliament; from 29% to 9% women in Cabinet and from 49% to 40% women in local government.

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