GENDER and Youth, Sports and Recreation Deputy Minister ‘Marefuoe Muso says the obstacles women were facing in their socio-economic advancement could only be addressed through a national dialogue on gender issues.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Ms Muso said the African Women’s Month commemorations being held in August were ineffectual without discussions on ending practices that subjugate women.
The African Women’s Month commemorations are held as a tribute to the more than 20 000 South African women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.
In Lesotho, the celebrations are being held under the theme: “Emancipation against all forms of discriminatory traditions and norms.”
Ms Muso said there was a need for concerted efforts to ensure men and women have equal opportunities in both economic and political spheres.
“I must be honest and tell you that as much as we have made some progress in addressing gender issues, I will be much happier if next time we celebrate the African Women’s Month we would all be speaking the same gender language,” she said.
The deputy minister explained that speaking the same gender language was when everyone understood the importance of breaking all the barriers preventing women from exercising their God-given talents.
She said such barriers included norms and traditions that oppressed women in families, societies and at the workplace. Some Basotho traditions, Ms Muso said, were enslaving women and negatively affecting their self-esteem and dignity.
“Women continue to be compelled to wear a mourning cloth in the event their husbands or children die, with very strict rules preventing them from actively participating in economic and social activities,” said Ms Muso.
“Yet men are not subjected to these outrageous norms and traditions because they know how oppressive such practices are.
“For instance, it is heartbreaking that in the 21st century, children born out of wedlock are still discriminated by their families. This practice is deeply hurtful to women.”
She said her ministry was holding an awareness campaign to ensure Basotho were gender sensitive in their day to day lives.
Ms Muso said she would be content if, by the time she leaves office, women would have made progress in participating in economic, social and political life.
“I dream of a country where women will be taking a leading role in the business, social and economic sectors and even having a female prime minister. That is very possible,” she said.
“A female premier can only become a reality if women start supporting each other and taking charge of their lives and their families. Women also need to stop pulling each other down to ensure progress.”
Ms Muso added that a number of programmes to equip women with entrepreneurial skills had been undertaken by the ministry.
“Our ministry has initiated programmes to empower women in terms of business training to ensure they are skilled before venturing into entrepreneurial activities,” she said.
“However, we have not yet reached a stage where we can financially support business entities owned and run by women.”