MOHALE’S HOEK councilors have vowed to protect persons with disabilities who they say have been sidelined from Lesotho’s development and strategic plans.
The councilors said this during their training on gender and disability mainstreaming in Mohale’s Hoek on Thursday.
The Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD) held training of councilors from five communities of Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek. The councilors were capacitated on gender and disability mainstreaming.
LNFOD is partnering with Diakonie Act Austria and the Austrian Development Agency among others to implement the Gender and Disability in Practice Project (GADIP). GADIP is a four-year project meant to contribute towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals; Goal 5 on gender equality and women empowerment.
Speaking on behalf of the councilors, ‘Maitumeleng Pheko from the Khoelenya community in Mohale’s Hoek said for a long time, people living with disability have been neglected in her community. She said she used to struggle to represent children with disabilities in her community.
“Now that we have been capacitated with this knowledge it is time to go back to educate the community about the rights of people living with disabilities and also promote gender equality,” Ms Pheko said.
“The community must know and understand that people living with disabilities deserve to be part of community projects while their rights must be protected.
“Promoting gender equality is also key even for people living with disabilities whose sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) must be protected while the abuse of women and girls living with disabilities must end.”
For his part, LNFOD project coordinator Rabasotho Moeletsi said his organisation decided to target local authorities to deepen their understanding on gender and rights of people living with disabilities.
“It is always important to target local authorities as important stakeholders to deepen their understanding on promoting gender equality and the rights of people living with disabilities in the discharge of their functions in their communities.
“Councilors must understand the concepts of full and effective participation and inclusion and accessibility means that society, both in its public and in its private dimensions, is organised to enable all people to take part fully.”
The councilors’ training comes after LNFOD launched the Gender and Disability Networking Forum on 16 April 2021.
Mr Moeletsi told the Sunday Express that through the forum, organisations representing people living with disabilities will work with Women in Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), She Hive, Gender Links and the Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN) through the Women’s Commission for a unified voice promote gender and disability mainstreaming.
The Social Development Ministry, as the primary implementer, is also represented in the forum to ensure access to social services is not only gender responsive but also disability inclusive.
“The forum will, hopefully, contribute significantly towards the empowerment of women and girls with disabilities including breaking the gender and disability related barriers to access SRHR and justice especially in the case of gender-based violence (GBV),” Mr Moeletsi said.