DEEP-ROOTED patriarchal norms that manifest at both professional and household levels, as well as across different geographic areas, age groups, and income levels are some of the key drivers of gender inequality, the World Bank has said.
The recently released report is titled: Lesotho Gender Assessment Report.
It states that deep-rooted patriarchal norms have relegated women to the household and they are also impacting on both boys’ and girls’ education as well as their life aspirations.
The report suggested eight policy considerations to help reduce inequality Lesotho. These policies build on the government’s agenda in the National Gender and Development Policy (2018–2030) and the second National Strategic Development Plan (2018–2023).
The considerations include improving working conditions for women, supporting pregnant girls to stay in school and facilitating their return to school, ensuring secondary school learners do not drop out and making it easy for them to return if they do. They speak of preparing girls for education and employment in high-earning fields and promoting women’s land rights with a focus on rural women.
Other considerations are enhancing women’s financial inclusion and entrepreneurship, strengthening women’s participation in local government and resourcing the mechanisms on gender-based violence and initiate gender-responsive budgeting cutting across relevant ministries.
Speaking during the virtual launch of the report this weekend, World Bank country director for South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and eSwatini, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly said she was hopeful that the research would influence policies that enhance equality.
“It is our hope that this research will help enhance policies that ensure that girls and women in Lesotho can equally realise their full potential,” Ms Marie-Nelly said.
Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, ‘Matšepo Ramakoae, said culture played a significant role in perpetuating gender inequality as females were taught submission from infancy. She added that women were expected to be submissive despite their position or level of education.
“We are raised to be submissive, and men are given priority at our expense. Even female politicians are afraid of raising concerns. We are also outnumbered by our male counterparts and sadly there are only a few women-led political parties because the playing field is not level for women to participate freely. Our laws also still deny women access to resources and ownership of land,” Ms Ramakoae said.
United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, said gender issues were bleeding the economy of Lesotho. She said there was a need to urgently address the gender gaps.
“There is need to enhance female financial inclusion and ensure Basotho have access to big production companies. We need to help Basotho thrive not survive. A 2020 Commonwealth report says that 5, 5 percent of Lesotho’s gross domestic product (GDP) is spent on GBV,” Ms Mukwashi said.
On her part, Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation Minister, Likeleli Tampane, said she was hopeful that the report would help the government in addressing inherent shortfalls in gender equality issues.
“This report builds on existing government commitments and initiatives and offers us practical ways to addressing barriers to gender equality.
“It will also help address the gender gaps that are likely to widen due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic such as adolescent and young women becoming more vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV), early and unwanted pregnancies, and child marriage, which we must tackle with urgency,” Ms Tampane said.
According to a statement from the World Bank, discrimination of women has been increasing in Lesotho since 2010.
“The 2021 Global Gender Gap Index placed Lesotho 92nd out of 156 countries in terms of distance to achieving gender parity. This is a drop of more than 80 places since 2010, when it was ranked eighth out of 144 countries. A key factor for the drop is persistent discrimination leading to differences in human endowments, unequal remuneration for equal work, women’s low labour force participation, low representation of women in senior positions and management, and women’s limited participation in the political system,” the World Bank said.