WOMEN’S leagues from the opposition bloc have called on female leaders to disregard party affiliations and fight for the upliftment of women across the country.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, All Basotho Convention, Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) women’s league leaders said it was high time ladies in positions of authority used their influence to advocate for women’s empowerment.
Reading the statement, BNP women’s league Deputy Secretary-General ‘Mametsing Khaka said they were concerned by the increasing number of murder cases in which women were the majority of victims. They also called on First Lady ‘Mathato Mosisili to use her influence to ensure the upsurge in violence against women was speedily addressed.
“We condemn the killings and call on relevant authorities to act on them by ensuring the perpetrators are arrested and face the full wrath of the law,” Ms Khaka said.
“To First Lady Mrs ‘Mathato Mosisili, knowing the strength of a woman, we are appealing to you to use your influence to ensure that relevant authorities address Basotho women’s concerns and ensure the rampant killing of women becomes history.”
She said the myriad of challenges facing women made it difficult to celebrate African Women’s Month. 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.”
“Due to the high unemployment rate in the country, girl children drop out of school and engage in child marriages. As a result, children are being infected with HIV, sexually transmitted infections and engage in drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and high maternal and child mortalities,” said Ms Khaka.
“We are therefore calling on the Education Minister (Dr Mahali Phamotse) to facilitate a free secondary and high school education policy for orphans and vulnerable children.”
She also called on Finance Minister Dr ‘Mamphono Khaketla to prioritise local companies in awarding tenders for various services.
“As female politicians, our expectation is that government should give the available jobs to Basotho as part of the country’s efforts to eradicate poverty,” the opposition said.
RCL Secretary-General ‘Mamolula Ntabe chipped in saying women should not be expected to celebrate Lesotho’s Independence jubilee amid challenges ranging from poverty to lack of access to health services.
“I don’t think an ordinary Mosotho woman is concerned about celebrating 50 years of Independence considering most are still walking long distances to seek maternal health services, collect their antiretroviral medication and also contending with gender-based violence every day,” Ms Ntabe said.
“The government first needs to protect women before they can expect us to join the celebrations. We need to forget about our political affiliations as female politicians to ensure women actively participate in national issues.”
She said party affiliations were immaterial since girl children forced into early marriages belonged to communities and not political parties.
“They are our own children. We need to start condemning child marriages in our political rallies because without political will and support, our children will continue to suffer while we hide behind party colours,” said Ms Ntabe.
The RCL secretary-general said opposition women’s leagues fully supported plans by the National Assembly to amend laws perpetuating child marriages in the country following a motion by Democratic Congress Rothe Member of Parliament (MP) ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli.
“We supported MP, ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, when she made a motion for government to reform marriage laws to protect girl children resulting in the National Assembly adopting the resolution to end child marriages,” Ms Ntabe said.
“These are some of the pertinent issues on which we have common interests with the government. We are going to forget about our affiliations and support processes enabling the government to end child marriages.”