International Women’s Day 2021 Speech

International Women’s Day 2021 Speech

International Women’s Day 2021: In honour of International Women’s Day (March 8), Dr. Peg Herbert gave a Zoom presentation to the ‘Women in Real Estate’ group from RE/MAX Hallmark about her experience with gender equity. Her talk focused on the importance of involving boys and men in the fight for gender equity. Peg shared inspiring examples from her work as Founder and Executive Director of ‘Help Lesotho’.

Meet the poetry winners for our STOP Gender-Based-Violence Campaign

Meet the poetry winners for our STOP Gender-Based-Violence Campaign

As part of the Help Lesotho GBV Blitz campaign in late 2020, youth in Lesotho were encouraged to submit essays and poems using the theme: What does it mean to ‘Do the Right Thing’ to stop gender-based violence in Lesotho? A total of 60 Basotho participated in the competition, sharing beautifully written poems and essays on the topic. Though a tough decision, four were selected as the contest winners and each writer received a smartphone prize! Read the four winning essays and poems below.


What does it mean to ‘stop gender based violence’ in Lesotho?
By: Likhapha Lehlabaphiri 

Gender based violence is violence directed against a person because of that person’s gender or violence that affects persons of a particular gender extremely. Violence against women is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of GBV that result in, or are likely to result in physical harm, sexual harm, psychological harm , economic harm or suffering to women. 

GBV can include violence against women, domestic violence against women, men or children living in the same domestic unit. Although women and girls are the main victims of GBV, it also causes severe harm to families and communities. 

To ‘Do the Right thing’ to stop GBV in Lesotho means raising awareness of the dangers of harmful traditions or cultural beliefs. It is believed by many Basotho communities that to be considered a “real” woman you have to be circumcised. This can be devastating impact on girls’ lives. We have to help rural families to learn about the facts and change their attitudes to help the practice come to an end. 

Challenging and speaking about violence in the home means to ‘Do the Right thing’ to stop GBV in our country. Parents should raise issues concerning GBV with their children and means of mitigation. That would help children to be knowledgeable and recognize where there is GBV and how they help minimize or prevent it. 

Engaging boys and young men to become agents of change means to ‘Do the Right thing’ to stop GBV in the mountain kingdom. To be effective, strategies must not only empower women, but also should include men and boys to bring about significant changes. This will help men and boys in ending patriarchal norms, gender inequality and GBV. 

To ‘Do the Right thing’ to stop GBV in Lesotho means listening to girls’ experience of violence and their solutions. It is the first step in breaking the cycle of abuse when a woman shares her story of violence. Abused persons needs help and whatever help you can offer as a helper, you also have to listen to then what they think needs to be done in order for them to be helped. 

Mobilizing youth to fight harmful practices such as child marriage means to ‘Do the Right thing’ to stop GBV in Lesotho. There is a sesotho saying that “Lets’oele le beta poho”, this simply means that we often tacle the biggest problem when we are many. As the youths of Lesotho, we have to stand and say it is enough with violating the rights of young children. I believe that when we are together, our voices will be heard that forces marriages have to come to an end, it is wrong as parents to force your child marry someone older that them and it is also wrong for an old man to be in a marriage alliance with a child. 

In conclusion, GBV is a major issue in this country, it is happening and it is for us as individuals to prevent it nationwide. We have to help the victims of GBV to heal and believe in change.


Full stop to Gender Based Violence
By: Rets’epile Mokhauli

By virtue of being a woman
We are born vulnerable
At times our life expectancy is significantly shortened
Simply because we are women

Like a hungry lion you came roaring
My feet trembled
You left my soul troubled
I have become a graveyard
A place for you to dispose of your lifelessness
Day in day out inside of me
I see not a precious angel I believed I was
Just a piece of useless object

With my God-given curves
You thought I seduced you
You forced yourself on me
What about my innocent babysister
And granny with her long dress
Did she seduce you too
Just admit you are monster
You threatened to eliminate me permanently
If I breathed a single word
So I’ve become a loner

As though it wasn’t enough
You beat my mom into a pulp
For mistakenly adding too much salt into the gravy
She wears makeup to cover her scars

You say you love her but is this the love she deserves
She keeps crawling at your feet begging for mercy
Neighbors saw her running outside half naked
They looked away because they claim they do no want trouble
Mahokela le hokae oeeee
Basotho ho senyehile kae?

I marched towards losing hope
I thought I would not cope
But something inside me awoken
If I speak, he won’t touch me again
I need to do the right thing
The words kept making an echo in my head

I got you behind bars huh
So you cannot add more statistics to GBV
You said you’d kill me
That was just a threat to keep me from blabbing

Let’s create posts everywhere
Hashtags all over
Make a noise
For our silence is too loud
STOP GENDER BASED VIOLENCE!!

So dear abusers
You feel you deserve a thank you right?
Am I am sorry it was my fault?
You should be ashamed of yourselves

Listen woman
It’s not your fault
The police, the psychologist, the neighbor
Yes you need to change your tune

You can’t kill me, sell my body parts
And sleep like a baby
How do you do it?

Taking me to a place unknown
Making money with every man that enters and leaves my precious baby
Which I had preserved till marriage

Let’s do the right thing
Teach our children to know that violence is bad
That our children speaking does not mean seeking attention
Raise awareness
Grow more than enough platforms
Approach media outlets, activists with all the confidence
Lets spit fire that awakens every man’s soul to desire to stop violence
Make it our goal to grow exponentially
To make a bigger difference in our small beautiful country
Leave no stone unturned
If we despise violence
We will fight it till justice prevails

Till Lesotho becomes a safe haven for all its citizens
Let’s see our women as precious jewels
We are responsible for change
Do the right thing
Stop Gender based violence!


ETSA SE NEPAHETSENG, NENA TLHEKEFETSO EA BASALI LE BANANA
By: Makhanya Lekhutle

Koli-ea-malla hae ha Moshoeshoe,
Basali ba apoloa likobo nyene le bosiu,
Koko le es’o ome ngoetsi e ngaletse hae habo eona,
Hloohong e roetse le sa ts’eloeng ke nta leqeba.

Thoetsana ea motse li ola molora lia hlaha,
Ba se ba e sheshenne bo kobo-thokoa, chobeliso,
Haele lilemo e sa tsoa ts’ela atla tse peli maoba,
Sekolo sona e se etla kopana le sona litorong.

Mosi foqo, moqebelo ha ‘Manthabiseng,
Nthabiseng o ile kae ha moea o tletse tlhonamo tje?
Ba mo isitse masihloane thaka-mphato tsa Ranthabiseng,
Mats’eliso e se e le a se nang phoofo phelo bo khaolelitsoe.

Bo- Majoro thibang kholumolumo e metsa bo- Efa ba Lesotho!
E kakatleleng ka litlena le e time bohale,
Ketsa- molao ha e tiise letsoho ho khalema,
Bo- Ramatla, bo-Rapeto ba tle ba ts’abele ruri.

Makhotla akofang ho aba toka ho mahlatsipa,
Hlohlelang lisenyi tsena ntloana-ts’oana,
Ho bona eke ba mollong oa lihele,
Bo-Ramatla, bo-Rapeto ba hlapele mats’ehong.

Lefifing le lets’o la tsikitlano ea tlhekefetso,
Chaba se lahlehile se phuthile matsoho,
Thuto ha e be leseli toala! ho lelekisa lefifi,
Bo Adama ba ananele bohlokoa ba basali.

Hlahlellang tlhankana ea lona e sa thuthuoa,
Thuto ba e anye letsoeleng, e otlolloa e sa le metsi,
Ngoanana ke khalase a ts’oaroe ka hlokolosi!
Mosali ke khalase a ts’oaroe ka hlokolosi!

Lingoli barutehi se phetseng ho ngola,
Evangeli ka tsa tlhekefetso e be kobo-anela,
Marena, mak’hanselara Tele ho ea Mechechane,
Hlanya lea kopaneloa epang li pitso hlaha e time.

Sechaba, baruti, matichere etsang sakana-la-nkope,
Phunyeletsang metseng le metsaneng,
Ts’ehetsang mahlatsipa a tlhekefetso,
Mofuthu le lerato ho bona e be lelomolo.


What does it mean to do the right thing?
By: Poloko Mokoai

Patriarchy can be defined as an integral system which is consistent of male dominance enforced by violence which is often done on women. Gender-based violence is a product of toxic masculinity which is so rife in our societies. The endemic of gender-based violence is global phenomenon and Lesotho is no exception. Unfortunately, the convictions are not in alignment with the number of reported cases. In as much as some people may want to help eradicate abuse against women, they claim to not know what needs to be done to stop femicide. The essay will try to shed light in what it means to do the right thing.

People need to be educated on what gender-based violence is in order to know how to fight against the deadly social ill affecting our societies. Nelson Mandela said education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change society. Gender-based violence is more than just raping women but also involves innocent micro-aggressions which make women uncomfortable. It can be a touch on her shoulder that makes her feel uneasy to the catcalling on the streets. Learning about the dynamics of gender-based violence will help people to know when they are crossing the line and to stop what they are doing. Moreover, it is quite clear that men do not necessarily understand what consent is and need to be taught about it. Consent is when two people are consciously in agreement for sexual activity to take place.

To do the right thing needs courage especially for men because speaking out could have them labelled as weaklings by their peers; but they need to speak out against rape culture. At social gatherings, men need to call out crude sexual comments said as jokes by their friends and to have conversations about what gender-based violence is. Instead of protecting their friends, they need to ostracize people in their circles who are part of the issue so as to discourage others from abusing women. Men tend to be enablers of abuse against women by applauding peers who claim to know how to put their women in line hence fixing the problem needs to begin with men to know what is right or not. For instance, boys in a group catcall-girls and make sexual comments while laughing which terrifies women. This culture has been long going for years and needs to be put to a stop.

Listening and believing victims is a step towards doing the right thing because it takes bravery to talk about an assault. Most women suffer in silence for fear of being blamed and humiliated when they speak up. When women report the crime, they take the first step towards breaking the cycle and stopping their abuser from doing the same to someone else. Furthermore, giving victims a safe space to talk about their abuse not only helps them have their sense of power back but also helps them deal with what happened and work towards the healing process. What`s more, victims will speak up without fear of being crucified or ostracized by their communities.

To fight against gender-based violence we need to dismantle the criminal justice system that is deeply rooted with patriarchy. The criminal justice system enables victimisation of women by allowing rapists to make bail and roam the streets freely. For example, a man was released on bail so he could prepare the funeral of the wife he murdered a few weeks ago. What`s worse, there has been cases reported whereby victims of sexual assault are mocked by police officers who take pleasure in asking them senseless questions and making the affected person keep repeating the event. The criminal justice system needs to protect women and children by imposing longer sentences for criminals and to work on rehabilitating them so that they can successfully be reintegrated back into the societies.

To infer, gender-based violence is destroying communities and need to be taken as a matter of emergence throughout the year not just during the 16 days of activism. For a country to be success, it first needs to root out toxic masculinity and work on equality for all genders. Doing the right is not just the responsibility of the government but for every person. As the Sesotho phrase states: letshoele le beta poho”. We all need to work together to combat GBV.

Our COVID-19 Responce

Our COVID-19 Responce

Click HERE to read Help Lesotho’s most recent COVID-19 update in our 2020 Year in Review.

Help Lesotho continues to adapt to the changing COVID-19 landscape. As of September 2020, we are delivering programs that allow for physical distancing and that comply with current Lesotho government regulations for gatherings. Staff and participants wear masks and practice good hand hygiene. All programs now include COVID-19 education and opportunities for participants to ask questions and clarify myths. Many vulnerable people have little access to information which can lead to increased anticipatory anxiety in such a crisis. Providing clear information and strategies for managing stress is proving to be a highly impactful COVID-19 prevention strategy. Our staff continue to provide psychosocial support to beneficiaries regarding the many challenges they face, some related to the COVID-19 pandemic, others the result of the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic and the extremely high rate of gender-based violence entrenched in the country.

Caring4Caregivers Campaign Update:

The Caring4Caregivers campaign was launched to provide relief to already vulnerable families in Lesotho were struggling to meet their most basic needs. Because of the incredible response from the Help Lesotho community, 1,230 families – over 5,000 people – received the most substantial relief packages Help Lesotho has ever distributed.

The procurement and distribution to remote villages was a massive undertaking, but we are proud that the comment we heard over and over again from community leaders and village chiefs was Thank you for doing this right. You reached the people who need this support more than anyone else. The package contained the items that were truly needed [rather than things that were easy to get and give]’.

“Hi, I am Makheleli, a proud Help Lesotho participant of the young mothers’ program. Proud because I feel blessed to have experienced this indescribable opportunity. I got a call from our program officer a few weeks ago amidst the lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic. It was a calming conversation where she only contacted me to know how my family and I were doing and we discussed coronavirus in depth so I could understand it better. I felt relieved and relaxed to the extent that I found myself sharing with her my challenges. The only income we had was from my husband’s piece jobs in fixing cars, but it has been difficult coping since we have no income whatsoever during this hard time. I am 24 and got married in 2017. I live with my parents-in-law, brother-in-law, my husband and our 1 year and 8 months old baby girl. 

A few days ago I got another call and the program officer informed me to come receive a food package consisting of maize meal, soap, sugar beans, sugar, cooking oil, split peas, green lentils, salt, matches, candles, Vaseline, paraffin, oranges, apples, airtime, a mask and sanitary kit. I could not contain my excitement nor wait to get home and share with my family the grace that had fell upon us. I wholeheartedly appreciate the mercy Help Lesotho has shown us. I am capacitated not only with tangible items but information that helps my sanity and health stability.

Though we missed some of the monthly trainings during the lockdown, I treasure the discussions we had that built me into the woman I am inspired to become. Thank you Help Lesotho!”

August 21, 2020:

Lesotho was one of the last countries in the world to get their first positive COVID-19 test. Sadly, the rate of infection is climbing steadily and there are now over 1,000 confirmed cases in the country. Testing numbers are still low however the rate of positive tests of those who get tested is shockingly high at between 7-10%. The country has introduced a prevention and response strategy that restricts gathering sizes and duration, but businesses (and NGOs!) are allowed to operate (unlike during the earlier lockdown). Today the government announced that schools will reopen for specific grades in the coming weeks.

Help Lesotho’s staff are providing support to help people cope with the anticipatory anxiety that many are feeling. We continue to provide COVID-19 related education at all possible opportunities. UNICEF recently provided funding for us to create and print a booklet for young mothers to help them make the best choices they can during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and caring for young children.
At Help Lesotho, we are doing our best to resume programming that meets the government’s guidelines. It is far from ideal, but our staff and beneficiaries understand the need to protect one another while continuing to build skills for a brighter future.

July 20, 2020:

Lesotho has re-entered a country-wide lock-down after reporting nearly 400 coronavirus cases. Health officials have confirmed there is community spreading, and is urging Basotho to avoid any sort of gatherings (including weddings and funerals), and prohibiting unnecessary movements across districts (except emergencies). The borders between Lesotho and South Africa are now closed.

In order to keep one another safe, it’s imperative to wash your hands, wear a mask and abide by social-distancing rules.

April 22, 2020:

Lesotho’s first lock-down lasted from March 29 to May 6. And was originally lifted after reporting zero cases of the virus. In April, the country able to set up its own testing facility (previously all tests needed to be sent to South Africa).

Basotho are terrified, burdened with the still open wounds from the horrors of the AIDS pandemic. Among the salient factors are: inadequate national health services, small crowded homes, loss of jobs in an abject poverty context, increases in isolation, domestic violence, and sex-trade activities for girls and women who cannot feed themselves or their children, virus myths and misinformation, and the fear of death of those with severely compromised immune systems.

Our work over the last 16 years has rebuilt hundreds of rural community support networks for our youth, grandmothers, young mothers and herd boys to replace those fractured or completely destroyed by death, fear and discrimination from the HIV/AIDS pandemic since in the 1990’s. During this time of uncertainty, we are developing alternative plans to continue to bolster these community networks so they are strengthened rather than diminished by this new virus threat.

OUR RESPONSE

  • Help Lesotho staff are disseminating factual information about the virus, clarifying protective measures of social distancing, hand-washing, and strategies to help citizens keep their immune systems strong;
    • staff also developed an COVID-19 information sheet in Sesotho;
  • our two community centres are now closed to limit exposure from congregating;
  • staff are united and committed to exploring innovative ways to keep in touch with their participants;
  • our Country Director, Shadrack, has evacuated to Kenya to be with his family, and works from home there. Supervisors are working remotely while still supporting their staff, tracking issues and beneficiary contacts, identifying patterns, etc.;
  • Lesotho staff continue their weekly meetings on Tuesdays via Skype to remain focused, motivated and in close contact. They will have access to real-time information to disseminate to beneficiaries;
  • before the lockdown, food parcels were delivered to our grandmothers in Berea and Pitseng;
  • we have operationalized a communications plan and support materials through which our program staff are reaching out to deliver psychosocial support to strengthen the hundreds of village support networks we have developed over the last decade;
  • we have enhanced mechanisms to provide staff with airtime to hotspot their computers as none have internet at home to work remotely;
  • we have set up WhatsApp groups of thousands of beneficiaries for positive messaging, information sharing and crisis management;
  • we’ve worked to refresh our beneficiary database of 3,000+ cell phone contacts, identifying the most vulnerable in each program group for priority contacting and schedules of contacts by phone, text, etc. These are adapted to those who have smart phones, non-smart phones (no apps) and those who have no phones, radios or other forms of information or who are illiterate. The latter group includes many of our grandmothers. For these individuals, we will try to reach their relatives;
  • developed and operationalized messaging for staff to manage these communications, including phone scripts, Q&As on the virus, strategies for handling stress, fear, depression, communicating with children, and domestic communications under stress. We are identifying those households that may be perilous for girls and women as domestic violence tends to increase under stress; and
  • all staff have been sent home with large quantities of COVID-19 information sheets, one pagers on various issues (human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, anger management, communication, decision making, peer pressure, etc.), our booklets on pre-and post-natal care, sexual and reproductive health, etc. We have printed thousands of copies and each staff will use them as references and will distribute them (while practicing social distancing). The guard houses at each Centre have copies to freely give out; and
  • Canadian staff are all working remotely, where we continue to adapt and support from our homes.
Lesotho staff distribute information sheets on COVID-19, while practicing social distancing.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

  • Help us with our cash flow: After building up this organization from nothing, we want to preserve and support our highly trained staff over this difficult period, who have no government support benefits such as unemployment insurance or government bailouts. If you can help us continue to keep paying our local staff and keeping the lights on, it would be most appreciated. Of course, all our budgeted spring fundraising events and plans are now aborted. We appreciate a one-time donation but if you feel you can start a monthly donation, this will give us the predictable revenue needed to enable us to continue planning our interventions for the immediate and long term periods.
  • Encourage our staff and beneficiaries: If you would like to write a note of appreciate or support to our beneficiaries and/or staff, please do – it would mean the world to them. You can send that to info@helplesotho.org and we will distribute.

Thank you for your continued support!I

The Risk of COVID-19 to Girls and Women in Lesotho

The Risk of COVID-19 to Girls and Women in Lesotho

Lesotho’s lockdown was lifted at the beginning of May. The border between South Africa and Lesotho remains closed, yet, hundreds took the chance to cross illegally back into the country. One week later, Lesotho reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

Despite the endless news on the devastation coronavirus is causing throughout the world, there is not enough emphasis on the impact COVID-19 will have on girls and women, particularly in a developing country like Lesotho.

As is common around the world, girls and women in Lesotho carry the brunt of housework, including the role of caregiving for children, the ill and the elderly. Their role as caregivers puts them at an increased risk of developing infectious diseases like COVID-19. As a result of this pandemic, these girls and women toil endlessly under the burdens of caregiving under the loss of income, food insecurity and isolation from the support structures that typically enable them to cope with their challenges.

Lesotho remains under strict physical-distancing measures. With families continuing to spend long periods of time together in their very small homes, girls and women are at an increased risk of gender-based violence. In Lesotho, before the additional anxiety caused by COVID-19, 86% of girls reported having been abused. As we know well, financial and emotional stress so often manifests in violent outbursts towards girls and women who have little support in normal times, let alone when home-bound while social and protective systems are not operating at full capacity.

Lesotho’s hospitals and care facilities lack significant resources and staff, making them ill-equipped to handle a pandemic like COVID-19, with Lesotho’s quarantine facilities comprised of just 148 beds. Furthermore, women in developing countries often experience a lack of access to critical health information as a result of their their socioeconomic status As noted in a report by the The World Health Organization:

“Social, cultural, financial and legal barriers and structural gender inequalities create critical challenges for meeting women’s health needs… In many settings women have limited autonomy and decision-making power, even over their health care needs – and limited time to seek services because of their caring responsibilities.”

With extremely high rates of pre-existing health conditions like HIV/AIDS (24%) and Tuberculosis (695 cases/100,000), COVID-19 would be extremely damaging to many Basotho people who already struggle with compromised immune systems. For women a pandemic poses a grave risk. They are inherently more susceptible to contracting HIV for reasons related indirectly and directly to their gender. According to the World Population Review, around half of the women in Lesotho under the age of 40 have HIV in urban areas, coupled with low socioeconomic status and lack of decision making power over their sexual and reproductive health.  

Many Basotho women previously supported their families through small-business income such as selling vegetables on the street, child-minding or domestic service. With a loss of income due to COVID-19 prevention measures, these women may be forced to look for work elsewhere, potentially taking risks that will compromise their wellbeing and safety. The expected desperation felt by girls and women needing to feed their families may contribute to a rise in sex work, human trafficking, and other dangerous activities.

If you are in Lesotho and need help due to gender-based violence, please call this toll free number: 80066666

Virtual Coffee with Peg April 22

Virtual Coffee with Peg April 22

On April 22, 2020, Help Lesotho’s Executive Director, Peg Herbert, welcomed supporters into her home via a virtual coffee webinar! Peg shared information about the current COVID-19 situation in Lesotho, Help Lesotho’s immediate response to the pandemic, and looked back to the Alumni Reunion that occurred while she was in Lesotho earlier this year.

Note: we had to address a few technical issues in the first ~8 minutes of this recording. Please bear with us (or skip ahead if you prefer)

Click here to watch the recording.