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Women parly representation declines


Herbert Moyo

WOMEN’S representation in Lesotho’s parliament dropped by two-percentage points from 25 percent to 23 percent after the 3 June, 2017 snap elections, a research by Gender Links Lesotho has revealed.

Gender Links Lesotho is part of Gender Links (GL), a Southern African non-governmental organisation headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa. It seeks to promote gender equality and justice across the 15 countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region in line with the SADC protocol on gender and development.

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 12 years down the line, Lesotho is nowhere near meeting the 30 percent benchmark on women’s representation in parliament.

Instead, Gender Links Lesotho has revealed that after the 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.

“The cabinet representation of women has remained the same for both 2015 and 2017 at 22 percent,” Gender Links Lesotho said in a recent statement.

“The 36 members of cabinet comprise five women ministers and three women deputy ministers. The country has also elected a male speaker in place of a woman who occupied this position previously.”

Lesotho’s parliament has 120 seats and 80 of these are filled through the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system and the remainder through proportional representation (PR) system.

“This mixed system facilitated women to claim 19 of the 40 seats (48 percent) allocated under the PR system while 12 percent of the women won eight of the 69 seats under the FPTP system,” Gender Links Lesotho noted. Elections were suspended in three constituencies due to the death of candidates.

After the elections, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) combined its 48 seats with those of the Alliance of Democrats (AD- nine seats), Basotho National Party (BNP- five seats) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL- one seat) to form a coalition government.

They replaced the seven parties’ regime that was headed by Democratic Congress leader, Pakalitha Mosisili.

Gender Links Lesotho however noted that the main ruling coalition partner, ABC fielded only seven female candidates (about 8.7 percent) in the June polls.  Only three of these candidates won the elections in their constituencies.

The BNP which is led by a former Minister of Gender, Thesele ‘Maseribane, had 16 female candidates but none of them won. Similarly, the AD had a total of 15 female candidates but none of them won.

Labour Minister, Keketso Rantšo is the only woman leading a party, the RCL.

However, the party fielded only 33 women candidates in 80 constituencies (41 percent).

“One would expect to see at least 50 percent candidates running for elective posts in a party led by a woman.

“More disappointing however, was the fact that the party did not win any constituency seats and managed to obtain only one PR seat,” Gender Links Lesotho observed.

Despite having voluntary gender quotas in their party manifestos, the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and DC had only six and four women candidates respectively.

The two parties opted for combined voting and their combined number of women candidates was just 12.5 percent.

Only four out of the 10 women won constituency seats.

“This calls for more commitment from the leaderships of these parties to implement their commitments as they both have a 30 percent quota in their constitutions.”

The Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) which had 30 women candidates and 30 men candidates did not win any constituency seats but obtained one PR seat which is occupied by a man.

In view of the decline, Gender Links Lesotho warned that the achievement of 50/50 women’s representation may never be realised with just two more elections expected by 2030.

It said a lot still needed to be done at political party level to promote women’s representation in decision making which would help tackle some of the challenges faced by women including the high levels of gender based violence, high rates of maternal mortality and increasing levels of HIV infections.

“The tenth parliament needs to oversee multiple reforms and it is very important that women’s needs are prioritised in the process.

“This will go a long way in ensuring the commitments to achieve gender parity in all levels of government through the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and the Sustainable Development Goals are attained by 2030,” Gender Links Lesotho concluded.


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