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Machabeng students tackle gender-based violence

Nthatuoa Koeshe

MACHABENG College students have stepped up efforts to eradicate gender-based violence, sexual violence and other forms of abuse against women and girls.

The students’ Ruteha initiative recently hosted an all-black attire day to honour the thousands of women who have over the years died in gender-based violence in the southern African region.

The event was held at the Machabeng College Amphitheater, under the theme “#ItDoesntHaveToBeYourChildren”.

Lesotho has one of the highest rates of violence against women and children. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says violence against women and girls in Lesotho is often normalised. According to a 2014 national survey, 33 percent of women and 40 percent of men in Lesotho believe wife beating can be justified.

The president of the Machabeng Student Representative Council, Nafisa Roza, said their recent event was influenced by the recent spike in the number of femicide and sexual assault cases in the region. She said the event was also aimed at creating awareness of the dangers of gender-based violence.

“The event was designed to raise awareness on the importance of teaching the youth about consensual sex and respecting people’s decisions,” Ms Roza said.

“We believe that the youths have the power to change the narrative of normalised sexual assault and violence. Our core objective is to increase the awareness of gender-based violence, especially rape and sexual harassment in the local communities through comprehensive sexuality education.”

Ms Roza said the Ruteha initiative was developed in 2018 to create awareness on gender-based violence, rape and sexual harassment.

The students were dressed in all-black attire to show solidarity to the survivors of gender-based violence. They also sold black ribbons and all the funds raised will be donated to Beautiful Dream society in Ha-Thetsane.

Beautiful Dream Society is an organisation which provides safe housing, medical and mental health care for victims of trafficking.

“We are also calling this movement #PaintMachabengBlack to substantiate our solidarity for victims of assault.

“The greatest message we want the students to take away from this is that #IAmNotNext (that they are not the next victims). We can all work together to create a culture of consent to eradicate gender-based violence.”

She said they also want to use the platform to change perceptions that talking about sex on different fora is taboo.

“Sex as a subject of discussion is still taboo in Lesotho, so we are driving towards breaking that norm of discomfort.”

She said they have received enormous support from UNFPA through training in comprehensive sexuality education.

“So far, we have had sessions with youths educating them about consent, the LGBTIQ (differences between gender and sex, the wide array of sexual orientations and the importance of acceptance),” Ms Roza said.

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