LESOTHO women and girls are faced with a myriad of challenges which require strong leadership and advocacy.
This was said by the chairperson of the Regional Women’s Caucus, Matsepo Ramakoae, who also chairs the National Women’s Parliamentary Caucus.
Ms Ramakoae said this at a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organised capacity building workshop for women parliamentarians on leadership and advocacy this week.
The workshop was held under the theme “Leadership, public speaking and advocacy by women parliamentarians”. The workshop’s objectives included strengthening their leadership capabilities, enhancing skills on public speaking, the use of the media and boosting participation and impact in parliamentary discussions
Ms Ramakoae said the issues of high maternal mortality, unsafe abortions, child marriages, high prevalence of HIV particularly among young people including high prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence were some of the challenges which had to be urgently dealt with.
“The issues require strong leadership and advocacy and the time is now for all of us to demonstrate that we are indeed executing our mandated functions of representation, law making, oversight and budget allocation,” Ms Ramakoae said.
Ms Ramakoae said they could only execute their mandates if they are fully capacitated, the reason for which they are grateful for the partnership with the UNFPA to ensure that they are fully equipped to deliver on their work.
“Through the support of the UNFPA, we have undertaken activities such as oversight visits to health facilities, correctional services institutions, sex worker homes, dialogues with key populations and a visit to Rothe on the murders of women in that area among others.”
She said all of their activities were meant for them as law makers to visit their constituents and to learn about their challenges.
She said the national women’s parliamentary caucus was fully supportive of the work of the UNFPA.
“I am aware that the UNFPA is part of the parliamentary working group on sexual and reproductive health rights, HIV and AIDS and governance so I have committed to ensuring that this group is sustained through better coordination and organisation. Further, we have full confidence that parliamentary efforts on issues affecting women and girls in particular, will remain high on the agenda of parliament.”
UNFPA country representative Nuzhat Ehsan, said they were proud of the work done since the launch of the caucus in May this year.
She said their voice is now being heard and their presence was now noticeable although more work still needs to be done.
Ms Ehsan said in the women’s caucus, they see a like-minded companion that will partner with them to address challenges facing the Lesotho particularly in relation to women and girls.
“These challenges include but are not limited to the high rate of maternal deaths and gender-based violence,” Ms Ehsan said.
She said the meeting was a critical step in ensuring that women parliamentarians gain the confidence they need to articulate issues, address the public and communicate through media, with eloquence.
Ms Ehsan said the crucial role played by women parliamentarians in advancing social development in the country and bringing different, critical perspectives to politics cannot be overemphasised.
She however, said due to fear of speaking in public, women are not visible in the media hence they miss out on the powerful role that media can play in advancing their agenda.