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Women urged to contest in polls


Tokelo Rasephei/ Mamohlakola Letuka

WOMEN have been urged to stand as candidates in the forthcoming local government elections to ensure that women’s rights are mainstreamed in government.

The elections will be held on 30 September this year.

This was said by the newly elected Senate President, Mamonaheng Mokitimi, at a recent seminar on women’s empowerment organised by the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation in Mazenod.

The seminar was held against the background of Women’s Month commemorations which are currently underway in Lesotho and other countries.

Women’s Month is celebrated in August as a tribute to the more than 20 000 South African women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 9 August 1956 protesting against the extension of pass laws to women in that country.

Speaking at the event, Dr Mokitimi the first woman to be elected Senate president, said although they were competent, women faced serious challenges of discrimination in various spheres, adding this could be addressed if they had adequate representation at decision making level.

“Women are facing major challenges of discrimination when it comes to occupying high positions in business sectors, they are equally competent to hold such positions as are their male counterparts,” Dr Mokitimi said.

She said women were prevented from progressing in their chosen fields by their male counterparts who felt they belonged to the domestic sphere hence unworthy to hold high positions in the corporate world.

She further encouraged women to unite and support each other instead of working to bring each other down.

Dr Mokitimi’s remarks came against the background of the country’s failure to meet benchmarks on the empowerment of women.

Despite committing to ensuring 30 percent representation of women in positions of power by 2005 and 50 percent representation by 2015, Lesotho has not met the benchmarks.

In 1997 the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) heads of state committed themselves to ensuring the equal representation of women and men in the decision making position of member states and SADC structures at all levels, and the achievement of at least 30 percent target of women in political and decision making structures by the year 2005.

However, there have been some strides towards having women in powerful positions in Lesotho. Apart from Dr Mokitimi, other women in powerful positions include Central Bank of Lesotho Governor, Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane, Chief Justice, Nthomeng Majara, Labour Minister, Keketso Rantšo and Social Development, Matebatso Doti.

Ms Rantšo is also leader of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho. She is the only woman leading a political party.

At 56 percent, the East African nation of Rwanda has made the biggest strides on the African continent to ensure women are represented in positions of power.

Gender Links Lesotho Director, Manthabiseng Mabetha, echoed Dr Mokitimi’s sentiments, urging women to contest the local government polls to ensure they are represented in decision-making bodies.

She said local government bodies were directly responsible for development in communities, hence the need for women to participate in the polls set for 30 September this year.

She said that decisions made at local government were more important to communities than those made in parliament, hence the need for women in local government.

She noted that women were better placed to know the needs of communities, for instance where to have infrastructure like clinics and roads hence the need for them to be in leadership positions.

“Women’s representatives would know where a central place for a village water supply should be located because they are the ones fetching water daily,” she said.

“It is high time that we worked together as women and elected each other to build our communities,” she added.

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 region.

For her part, the Deputy Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Rethabile Marumo, said women should work together to eliminate gender-based violence.

Ms Marumo urged women to report cases of gender-based violence so that the culprits could be brought to book.

Ms Marumo encouraged young women to work hard to enhance their chances of being successful in future. She said hard work was more important to success than the mere possession of academic certificates.

“This Women’s Month, women should take the responsibility of being independent and support one another to start their own businesses as they are capable.

“This is also important to the economic growth of the country,” Ms Marumo said.

Speaking at the same event, Khotla Lesotho representative, Palamang Lenanya said it was important for men to use Women’s Month to rediscover their love for their wives.

“Let’s use this month as an opportunity to ignite passion in our families as husbands,” Mr Lenanya said, adding, “When you married that woman, know that you also married to her weaknesses as well”.

He said men should respect and protect women instead of persecuting them.

“In addition to physical abuse, women are also abused financially and socially.”

He further said this month should be celebrated by honouring women who excelled in their respective fields.














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