CWP chair has big plans
THE newly-elected chairperson of the Commonwealth Women’s Parliamentarians (CWP) for Lesotho, Matšepo Ramakoae, says she will use her position to empower female legislators on issues relating to women in politics and economic development.
Ms Ramakoae is the former deputy minister of finance and she is the current legislator for the Matsieng # 45 Constituency.
She was elected as CWP Lesotho chairperson on Wednesday and she will serve in that capacity for the duration of the tenth parliament.
The CWP was established in 1989 by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) as part of efforts to increase women’s participation in political institutions.
The CWP network provides capacity building for female legislators. It also capacitates male parliamentarians to enable them to mainstream gender perspectives in legislation, oversight and representation of their constituencies.
In an interview with the Sunday Express, Ms Ramakoae said she will focus on “increasing the number of women in parliament and supporting the establishment of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV programmes in the country”.
“There is a lot that still needs to be achieved in terms of SRHR in the country as Lesotho still lags behind in educating women on their SRHR. We need to sensitise people on such matters.
“We need to look at the main barriers that inhibit women from participating in political affairs. I am particularly keen to ensure that all laws that are enacted regarding women and children uphold the rights of women.
“CWP will identify the barriers that hinder this access and develop programmes to capacitate women so that they can, in turn, lead programmes that will result in increased access by women to economic opportunities. In the case of Lesotho, we need to ensure those laws address the issues affecting women in the rural areas.”
She emphasised that gender sensitive budgeting is a key objective in the CWP strategic plan for 2016 to 2020 as women suffer from many practices that are harmful to their health.
She said that sensitisation programmes will be carried out so that relevant authorities become aware of the need for gender budgeting.
“We also want to stop child marriages as this causes a lot of problems and contributes to the high HIV/AIDs prevalence rate. We need to capacitate women to be economically empowered because poverty mainly affects women.
“As chairperson my job is to ensure that we develop strategies that will reach and benefit the rural areas. We will involve the men and children in the communities to ensure that everyone is well informed on developments concerning women.”
She expressed concern over the failure to meet the 50 percent representation of women in politics and decision-making positions as recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Back in 1997, Lesotho joined other SADC countries in committing to ensuring the equal representation of women and men in the decision making positions of member states and SADC structures at all levels by 2015 and the achievement of at least 30 percent representation of women in political and decision making structures by the year 2005 including parliament.
But 13 years later, Lesotho is nowhere near meeting the 30 percent benchmark on women’s representation in parliament for 2005.
Instead, after the 3 June 2017 polls, only 27 out of the 120 seats are held by women as compared to 2015 when women held 30 seats.
This reflects a decline by two-percentage points from to 23 percent from 25 percent.
“Instead of progressing we are regressing; more women are leaving parliament we are nowhere near the 30 percent goal set by SADC for 2005. If the country is to successfully address issues concerning women we need to have more women involved in politics,” Ms Ramakoae said.