Are we really empowering women?

LESOTHO has been working on programmes to empower women for years.

The clarion call to empower women reached a crescendo in the build-up to the Fourth World Conference for Women held in Beijing, China, in 1995.

But the question that remains is: Has Lesotho been able to earnestly empower women since that conference?

Or are we are regressing regarding the issue of empowering women?

Statistically it would appear we are making huge progress.

However, I would like to argue that the quality and sustainability of our women empowerment programmes leave a lot to be desired.

Lesotho is still a deeply paternalistic society.

Look at the negotiation process for the marriage arrangement.

Women are not part of the negotiation process.

Marriage negotiations remain a key indicator of paternalism in our society.

Women remain at the mercy of men who often use marriage negotiations to settle scores.

This arrangement puts women at risk.

The marriages that are borne out of these unfair negotiations are also at risk.

This is not surprising as the majority of these marriages end up in divorce in a country that professes to be a Christian country.

I am also of the opinion that the whole question of the heir to the throne of the royal family in Lesotho should be reviewed.

King Letsie III’s first born is a daughter.

Under the current system the daughter will not qualify to become the next head of state because she is a woman.

The king’s second born, who is also a girl, will also be disqualified from the throne under the same rule.

It is only the third born, who is a boy, who will be our next king.

If we agree on the principle of gender equality then it should follow that this law should be adjusted to allow the first born, whatever her gender, to inherit the throne.

This can only be fair.

Is there really anything that the princess cannot do if she were to become the queen that the prince will do?

There are many other countries that have implemented this change in line with modern trends.

We could also draw important from the English who have a long tradition of queens being heads of state.

Other countries such as Denmark also have a wealth of experience in this regard.

The ministry of gender should not spend time and attention building structures that will not serve the interests of women in Lesotho.

It is my hope that one day we will be able to build a society that clearly distinguishes between women empowerment and women abuse.

That will be a society in which women will be given opportunities to grow, learn and manage without having to offer anything in return.

Then we would have reached a stage where both men and women will be treated as equals in society.

In as much as women empowerment is very important it is also vital that we ensure that it is closely linked with citizens’ empowerment.

We should never forget that women in Lesotho enjoy certain advantages for example in education where the girl child tends to get more opportunities to go to school than the boy child.

But women’s empowerment programmes should not be at the detriment of men.

Men who are in positions of power should also not use women empowerment programmes to make women sacrifice their dignity in pursuit of certain ends.

Basotho women are quite a talented and competent lot. There is need to bring to an end programmes and practices that degrade our women in Lesotho.

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