It is early in the morning as I write and I hear a gentle rain falling on the tin roof – what a wonderful sound. There is so much going on here I am tripping over myself to describe the activities clearly.
Help Lesotho is stepping up its efforts to reach more people and provide more leadership opportunities for our beneficiaries to run public events and activities. One such initiative is the formation of a national Grandmother Network, with Help Lesotho as chair to guide the development of the network.
Another initiative is the GIRL4ce Movement, planned and run by girls and boys with older youth mentoring the younger ones in leadership. The focus of the movement is to educate and encourage thousands of youth in learning about and practicing human rights, gender equity, HIV prevention and ending unhealthy practices such as child early and forced marriage (CEFM) and gender-based violence (GBV). The girls and boys in the movement’s leadership have been meeting on weekends to plan and prepare various advocacy activities. The girls have even trained police officers!
The GIRL4ce Movement has conducted massive activities in three locations over the past two-week period, with the expectation of reaching 2,000 youth, teachers and community members to advocate against CEFM and GBV.
Many of our graduates who are members of Help Lesotho’s Alumni Association are committed to helping execute these activities, which include songs, poems, and speeches. At Hlotse High School, the target was 400 participants. Nearly 500 primary and secondary students came!
Last Sunday, a church service was planned by the GIRL4ce young leaders to talk about these issues, pray for victims of gender-based and sexual violence, and have a moment of silence with participants holding lit candles to remember and honour the victims.
The best laid plans – the school auditorium reserved for the service was double booked and the entire group had to walk 30-45 minutes (depending on your speed!) to our Centre. And they came – close to 300 participants!! The grandmothers were seated in the place of honour at the front. I was just thrilled to chat to the priest beforehand to know what he was going to say and I learned that he is a graduate of our Leaders-in-Training program last year! He loved it. The messages spreads!
After the three-hour service, the grannies went by themselves to form a circle on the property and sang and danced by themselves for 20 minutes. Gosh they are adorable! They encouraged the youth to care for one another and stop this violence against girls.
A similar event was held in the village of Pitseng, again using the school auditorium on Saturday for 500 youth. The next day there was a community walk from the village of Pontmain to our little Centre that attracted 400 community members. The activities were then repeated in Butha Buthe district reaching an additional 600-800 people. Youth were in charge of all these activities as they publicly stood up to protest against early and forced marriage and gender based violence.
It is wonderful see these young boys and girls talking to their peers and community members about such important issues that affect them all. These activities are not merely educational – they are therapeutic. Estimates vary but even among boys and grannies the level of abuse is staggering. At these events, the participants hear clearly that someone notices them, that what they are experiencing is wrong, that they do not deserve this and that it is not their fault. Somebody cares. Somebody expects this to stop. Young people are going to step up and speak out until it does. These events matter!
There is so much excitement in our office about upcoming projects. In the coming months, we will:
- Launch a new group of 150 young mothers;
- Start a new Computer and Life Skills program at the Pitseng Centre in our new container-computer classroom; and
- Hopefully distribute 2,000 solar lights to vulnerable students who need light in order to do their homework!
You have likely heard about this solar light campaign since Giving Tuesday in early December.
We are only $3,100 away from our target of $30,000 to make this project a reality!
I love to think of students turning on their solar-charged lights for the first time as they sit down to read, solve math equations, and practice their writing skills. I have been in so many huts that have little or no light. How can these kids pass when there is no option to read or study at home after chores? Such a simple thing but beyond the reach of our students.
Thank you for the encouraging notes and emails – they mean a lot and I love touching base with you – even in a few lines.
Salang hantle (stay well),