Understanding Lesotho’s Winter Challenges

Understanding Lesotho’s Winter Challenges

When we think of Africa, many of us envision a continent that’s warm year-round. However, Lesotho, which has the world’s highest low point, experiences harsh winter conditions that can have severe implications for its residents, especially those who live in poverty. As Canadians look forward to warm summer weather, Lesotho’s coldest month, July, is just around the corner, bringing with it significant challenges.

Lesotho’s winter season starts in May and lasts until August. During this time, temperatures can plummet below freezing, sometimes bringing snowfall with it, especially in the highlands. These harsh conditions exacerbate the existing vulnerabilities faced by many families in Lesotho.

snow at the Hlotse Centre
kids playing, jackets

Food security is a major issue during Lesotho’s winter months. This past summer, the exceptionally hot weather made it very difficult for many families to grow produce to preserve for the winter. With approximately 80% of the rural population relying on less than 10% of arable land for subsistence farming, the impact of a poor growing season is profound. Lesotho is prone to floods, heavy rains and drought in the summer months which further reduces growing ability and puts an increased dependency on food imports.

Barren field in Lesotho

Malnutrition is a critical concern during the winter. It’s not just about having enough food but also about consuming food with the necessary nutrients. This is particularly important for young children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and grandmothers. Chronic malnutrition affects 34.5% of children under five in Lesotho.

Help Lesotho is actively monitoring the food situation and responding to areas where people are most at risk. According to the World Food Programme, 580,000 people in Lesotho are considered “food insecure”, that’s approximately one quarter of the country’s population. The situation is especially dire for child-headed households, as many parents migrate to South Africa for work, leaving children to fend for themselves and take care of their other siblings. 

grannies in blankets
snow at Pitseng Centre

Additionally, during July’s winter break, schools close, and children lose access to school lunch programs, often resulting in increased hunger and reliance on just one small meal per day.

Your support is crucial in helping provide essential food parcels, solar lamps, blankets, and boots to those in need. By donating here, you help ensure that the people of Lesotho have the resources they need to survive the winter months and mitigate the impacts of food insecurity. 

In the shadows: Lesotho’s struggle against human trafficking

In the shadows: Lesotho’s struggle against human trafficking

While Lesotho’s landscapes may be breathtaking, the small African Kingdom grapples with a persistent issue that often lurks in the shadows – human trafficking. Lesotho’s geographical position, surrounded entirely by South Africa, presents both opportunities and challenges for the nation. Being landlocked within South Africa makes eliminating human trafficking extremely difficult as there are countless routes for vulnerable people to be smuggled across the border. 

Poverty serves as the breeding ground for human trafficking in Lesotho. With over half the population living below the poverty line and an unemployment rate that hovers around 80%, individuals are desperate for economic opportunities. 

girl getting water in Lesotho

Traffickers often target vulnerable women and children, luring them with promises of employment, education, room and board, food or small gifts like toys and candy. Once trapped, victims find themselves subjected to various forms of abuse, including forced labor and sexual exploitation. When presented with an opportunity, many have little choice but to fall into the trap of false promises of a better life outside of the borders of their country.

In many instances, desperate families send their children to South Africa in hopes they have more economic or educational opportunity, which often lands them in the hands of traffickers. Traffickers typically target rural communities, where employment rates are particularly low and where the gender-imbalance is more pronounced. In rural communities it is also easier for traffickers to slip through the cracks of law enforcement and hide in the mountains. 

In Lesotho, traffickers exploit Basotho children, especially orphans, in forced labor in domestic servitude and animal herding and in sex trafficking.  Young girls employed in domestic work in exchange for room and board are vulnerable to forced labor and abuse.” – from the 2023 Trafficking in Persons report 

Help Lesotho’s programs work to actively inform participants about the dangers of human trafficking and how to protect themselves against potential situations where they could be vulnerable to traffickers. Our edu-tainment group GIRL4ce works to spread the word in rural communities throughout Lesotho, educating communities on how to understand the signs of human trafficking and protect its citizens. 

Help Lesotho leaders in training program

Addressing poverty is crucial to breaking the vicious cycle that enables human trafficking to thrive. Initiatives that focus on education and creating employment opportunities can empower individuals, making them less susceptible to the allure of traffickers. 

On this International Day of Awareness Against Human Trafficking, Help Lesotho remains dedicated to actively promoting the message on safeguarding women and children, and entire communities from this pervasive crime.

If you or someone you know needs help, reach out to Skillshare (+266 22317399) or Beautiful Dream Society (+266 63423361) or contact your local police.

A recap on the 2023 Young Mother Program

A recap on the 2023 Young Mother Program

Below is a recap and compilation of stories from Help Lesotho’s 2023 Young Mother Support Program. Read on to learn about the impact this program is having in the lives of so many young women and their families.

In many ways, Help Lesotho’s Young Mother Program has the most visible evidence of change of all Help Lesotho programs. Throughout the program, the girls and young women’s bodies undergo significant changes related to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and the post-natal months and years. The way the participants care for their changing bodies is even more remarkable. They carry themselves with more confidence, they no longer feel shame over their bodies, and they see value in caring for their bodies with respect and acceptance. They no longer feel relegated to the sidelines while their children and partners take what ‘they need’ from their bodies.

In the early days of the program, it very rare to see any young mothers smiling. They are cautious, guarded, wounded and grieving. Over time, there is a palpable relaxation in the training room as the young mothers allow themselves to share. Help Lesotho’s Young Mother Program is a comprehensive approach to capacitate adolescent girls and young women with strategies and support to cope with the repercussions of being young mothers. This involves emotional turmoil, dropping out of school, expulsion from family units, lack of support from the father of the child (and their families), stigma and rejection from community members, poverty, stress and livelihood insecurity. The program fosters capacity in the participants to build their personal resilience, learn to make healthy decisions, and support one another through their challenges.

Top 10 Key Impacts

  1.  Improved self-esteem
  2. Increased respect – for oneself and for others
  3. Confidence with expressing feelings and emotions
  4. Improved communication skills
  5. Improved relationships with spouses and family members
  6. Establishment of support groups with other young mothers
  7. Income-generation from the Starter Packs
  8. Better understanding of early childhood development
  9. Improved anger management skills
  10. Increased access to sexual and reproductive health services
young mothers with their small children.

Stories of Hope

Boitumelo with her daughter.

Boitumelo

Boitumelo found herself pregnant at only 16-years-old. Her boyfriend refused to accept his role and left her to face the responsibilities of motherhood alone. Boitumelo is relieved that her family allowed her to stay with them.

Boitumelo joined the Young Mother Program when she was six months pregnant. She had never visited the clinic since becoming pregnant, but was supported to attend prenatal visits thanks to Help Lesotho facilitators. Thankfully she and her baby were healthy then, and continue to be in the postnatal period as well

A vocational school attended one of the program’s monthly training sessions to share various opportunities they had available for young mothers to access education. They decided to enroll Boitumelo in their program at no cost because she was the youngest participant in the program. Over several months she attended classes to learn catering, knitting and sewing. These skills will help her generate an income for her and her baby. Boitumelo shared, “I am grateful every day that Help Lesotho found me. I know I am on the right path now.”

Makutloano

At only 24 years old, Makutloano has endured tremendous loss. She married her husband when she was 18-years-old after finding out she was pregnant. They went on to have three more children. In April 2022, her husband passed away; a loss she thought was unbearable until she had to bury one of her children in January of this year.

Makutloano said, “Had I not been in this program, I would have lost my mind. The pain I have endured is unmeasurable. I felt much supported in this program by the facilitators and other young mothers. The partners and parents training transformed my relationship with my mother-in-law who is very supportive in helping raise my three children.”

She went on to describe that the resources, such as vegetable seeds and the income-generating starter pack she received through the Young Mother Program, have empowered her to regain her independence; “More burden is off my shoulders because I am able to be resourceful; plant crops in the field for selling and consumption. I confidently attest that the Help Lesotho is a safe place to learn, grow and heal”.

Maphethahatso, young mother program participant

Maphethahatso

Maphethahatso is a 24-year-old mother from Berea district. She and her husband are parents to a five-year-old son and are expecting a second baby. Before the training, Maphethahatso used to be shy and feared interacting with other people. The session on self-esteem helped her to re-gain her confidence and as a result she managed to fully participate in the training with her peers. She says she also managed to express her feelings in her family using the communication skills she learned. She feels that her family now has more respect for her because she has good ideas and opinions to share.

Rahaba

Rahaba says that the Young Mother Program arrived just when she needed it most during a difficult period in her life. Her marriage was crumbling due to unresolved conflicts with her husband, and as it ultimately came to an end, the resilience module sparked a transformation within her, inspiring her to pick up the pieces and find a way forward. She said, “the program helped me emotionally because my marriage situation was stressful and I had no one to share with. Also I have been able to have self-actualisation, putting myself and my child before everything else”.

Rahaba, young mother program participant

Makatleho

Makatleho describes herself as rude, harsh and lacking patience before the program, and now describes herself as confident, humble, and respectful. Previously, her relationship with her husband was very strained and they were always fighting. They are now able to politely speak to one another and value what the other has to say.

She went on to say that the program instilled the importance seeking sexual and reproductive health services and taking her daughter for check-ups consistently. She proudly said, “my child has become a radiant child who eats nutritious food. I am now playing and reading books with her regularly to improve her cognitive development and I see so much improvement even at her young age.”

Program Statistics

stats on the young mother program 2023

Investing in the next generation:

Although Help Lesotho’s program is focused on young mothers in their own right, undoubtedly the children of these young women stand to benefit both in the immediate and the long-term. These babies will grow up with mothers who stand up for their rights, who are role models of healthy relationships, who value education, who prioritize healthy decisions, and who see parenting as more of a privilege than a burden.

Although Help Lesotho’s program is focused on young mothers in their own right, undoubtedly the children of these young women stand to benefit both in the immediate and the long-term. These babies will grow up with mothers who stand up for their rights, who are role models of healthy relationships, who value education, who prioritize healthy decisions, and who see parenting as more of a privilege than a burden.

Supporting Mental Well-Being in Lesotho

Supporting Mental Well-Being in Lesotho

Mental health is a fundamental human right that should be accessible to all individuals. At Help Lesotho, our work lies in nurturing mental well-being and fostering resilience in order to empower beneficiaries to reach their full potential and make healthy decisions for themselves, that also impact those around them.

As we recently observed World Mental Health Day, we compiled a list of 10 ways Help Lesotho supports people to improve their mental health.

Help Lesotho celebrates pride month in Lesotho

1. Fostering inclusiveness and creating safe environments for all.

young mother with program certificate

3. Contributing to dignity, autonomy and self-sufficiency through access to services and local resources.

smiling family, benefitting from Help Lesotho programs

5. Providing counselling sessions to vulnerable individuals and families as they navigate challenges.

fostering friendships through help lesotho programs

7. Fostering friendships amongst supportive peers.

help lesotho employee caring for a program beneficiary

9. Caring for people in ways that make them feel seen and valued.

Help Lesotho program outdoors encourages active living

2. Promoting physical activity and active lifestyles.

children love to play outdoors at the help lesotho leadership centres

4. Supporting inter-generational communication to improve family and community support systems.

breaking down barriers through interactive education

6. Breaking down barriers about depression, suicide, and drug & alcohol and abuse.

Help Lesotho centres are a second home to many, a safe space

8. Creating a home-away-from-home for children to play, learn and grow.

help lesotho helps beneficiaries make healthy decisions

10. Equipping people with knowledge that empowers them to make healthy decisions.

Together, we are building the resilience of a generation that is working hard to create a brighter future! For some more context as to why mental health support is an important part of Help Lesotho programs, click here

High School After the Pearl Program

High School After the Pearl Program

We recently caught up with a couple Pearl Girls who completed the Pearl Program a few years ago. These girls are now nearly finished their high school education. Read on to see how the program has made an impact in their lives and helped them to navigate high school with confidence and success.

16-year-old SEBOPEHO is in grade 11, the final year of high school in Lesotho. She completed the Pearl Program back in 2019. Sebopeho lives with her mother and three brothers. Her mother is not working, but her older brother is an accountant and is able to help support the family. When she was in grade 10, Sebopeho started dreaming of becoming a doctor when she grows up because she loves biology.

Sebopeho, pearl girl

Looking back at when she started high school, Sebopeho does not hesitate to say that peer pressure was the biggest challenge. Everywhere she looked she could see students being negatively influenced by others. Some are no longer attending school because they did not keep their grades up. For Sebopeho, she decided to avoid making close friends in the first couple years of high school. She was friendly with people, but did not want anyone to have too much influence over her. Now she has wonderful friends whom she fully trusts. She knows what good friendships look like and she isn’t willing to accept anything less. The same goes for finding a boyfriend – although Sebopeho hasn’t found someone who is a good match for her yet.

She said, “I see my friends having so many boyfriends, but they hurt them so much. I don’t want that.”

Sebopeho maintained friendships with fellow Pearl Girls from her session. Even though they go to several different schools, they are still able to support one another; “We like to help each other”.

A quiet leader with a bright smile, Sebopeho stands up against peer-pressure and bullying in her school and has become a trusted confidant among other young girls in her school and community. “The Pearl Program helped so much. There are so many challenges, especially for girls. I get to help others now.” She shared an example of a girl being bullied for being at the top of her class. Other students were taking her books and making fun of her for performing well. Sebopeho befriended the girl and supported her to keep her head up. They are now friends who rely on one another to have each others’ backs.

“In my village there are so many children who are not going to school. I see everyday what I would be doing if I didn’t have this opportunity.”

At just 16-years-old, grade 10 student MEISI is already a strong leader amongst her peers. She was orphaned at just eight-years old and has survived thanks to the support of her grandmother. After completing the Pearl Program in 2020, she began her high school education with confidence. “I was a really shy person but being at Help Lesotho really helped me.”

Reflecting on her time as a Pearl Girl and Pearl Mentor, Meisi shared, “Before I was stressed to say anything wrong. But being a Pearl Girl and Mentor helped me learn to talk and share ideas. Now I join everything and have things to say.” She went on to say, “I was always being told I am unique, just like unique pearl stones. I learned self-esteem and human rights. It really helped me be a leader. Next year I will be head girl at my school. Teachers could see my self-esteem so they chose me. I’m open with other people.”

Meisi, past pearl girl

Being promoted as ‘head girl’ at her school is a tremendous accomplishment. The position is nominated by students who select the person they feel best represents the student body. As head girl, Meisi will be a link between teachers and students. She will motivate and encourage students to work hard and dedicate themselves to their studies.

Meisi is putting what she learned from the Pearl Program into action every day. She has overcome so much to get to where she is today, and she knows she still has a long way to go to figure out her future, especially without parents to support and guide her along the way. It is astonishing that she has the capacity to support and motivate other students the way she is. There is no doubt that Meisi has a bright future ahead!

For more information about the Pearl Program, or to shop Pearls4Girls jewelry, click here.

Coffee with Peg and Mamoletsane Oct 14 2021

Coffee with Peg and Mamoletsane Oct 14 2021

Have you watched the latest Coffee with Peg and Mamoletsane? On October 14, Help Lesotho’s Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Peg Herbert, and Mme Mamoletsane Khati, Help Lesotho’s Country Director sat down for a virtual chat to discuss the latest on COVID-19 in Lesotho and the organization’s new project in South Africa. They were joined by two psychosocial support professional interns, Motopi and Lineo. Enjoy!

 

Watch previous Coffee with Peg videos: