Gender divides chiefs’ meeting
By Letuka Chafotsa
MASERU — A meeting of Principal Chiefs was yesterday left deeply divided over whether a girl child can take over chieftainship.
The principal chiefs were discussing whether or not to approve the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) resolutions on chieftaincy succession and inheritance.
The meeting was convened by the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation’s department of gender to engage principal chiefs and senators on the succession debate that has gained momentum since Princess Senate Gabasheane Masupha lost her bid to preside over the chieftainship of Ha ‘Mamathe, to her half brother Lepoqo Gabasheane Masupha.
The discussion, chaired by Mikia Molapo, Director of Chieftaincy Affairs in the Ministry of Local Government, got seized in a heated disagreement about whether or not a girl child can succeed a chief.
Principal Chief of Ha-Maama, Mabela Maama, who agreed with CEDAW resolutions, said discrimination against unmarried girls “violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity”.
“Such restrictions are obstacles to the participation of women on equal footing with men, in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their countries and hamper the growth of the prosperity of society and the family,” Maama said.
Maama however added: “Only if the girl gets married should she be restricted from chieftaincy.”
However, other chiefs disagreed.
Principal chiefs of Tajane, Matelile and Qacha’s Nek, Tlali Mohale, Seeiso Moholobela and Mojela Theko Makhaola respectively, put more emphasis on customs and culture of Basotho as pivotal in determining the country’s direction in addressing matters relating to CEDAW and chieftaincy successions.
Leribe Principal Chief Joel Motšoene Molapo said prohibition of discrimination should not be confined to chieftainships but should apply to every facet of life.
Both Bereng Griffiths Api and Bereng Bereng, principal chiefs of Ha Ramabanta and Kubake and Rothe respectively, said the matter should be first addressed by the grassroots as “the communities are the owners of the issue (of chieftainships)”.
The ministry said that although Lesotho ratified CEDAW in 1995, with exception to Article 2 which relates to inheritance and succession to the throne, huge efforts needed to be made to ensure that local legislation complies with international norms and standards on abolition of discrimination.
Article 18 of the 1993 Constitution of Lesotho allows discrimination provided it is “based on culture and customs”.
The Chieftainship Act provides for only men to assume chieftaincy while the Lesotho customary law states that daughters, based on their gender, “cannot succeed their fathers’ chieftainship”.
Gender Minister Thesele ’Maseribane said Lesotho should adopt the necessary policies, strategies and programmes to develop women and men as equals.
“Although affirmative action measures are put in place with particular reference to women and girls, in order to eliminate all barriers which prevent them from participating meaningfully in all spheres of life, our culture and customs remain a key challenge,” ’Maseribane said.
’Maseribane said notwithstanding the fact that Lesotho was a bit advanced in the realisation of women empowerment, the girl-child issue was still “a heart-rending problem which needs to be addressed by engaging all the relevant stakeholders”.
Advocate Mohau Tšilo, the ministry’s principal gender officer on political empowerment issues, said “serious deliberate efforts” were needed to provide for the empowerment of women, eliminate discrimination and achieve gender equality.
“Propulsion of implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects are necessary,” Tšilo said.