Through Help Lesotho’s Young Mother Program, participants receive‘Starter Packs’ to help them with the initial investment needed to launch small businesses. As much as these young mothers try to find jobs elsewhere, the high degree of unemployment in the country makes for an incredibly competitive job market. Additionally, most young mothers need significant flexibility in their work in order to care for their children. The young mothers find that being self-employed is the ideal scenario for them, even though it is not an easy road to success.
Along with the start-up funding for their small businesses, the young mothers are trained on budgeting, inventory management, marketing, and customer relations. While not all young mothers are able to sustain their businesses, this model remains an effective way to give young mothers the option to build a business, or to use their initial profits to meet urgent needs within their families.
One young mother, Mats’epo, used her Starter Pack to buy simbas (peanuts), biscuits, eggs, sweets and match sticks. She selected her starter pack products based on what is in demand in her local community. Many people in her community had to walk a long distance to get the products she is selling, so she knew the demand would be there as people would find it more convenient to buy from her. She made use of her profits to open a salon which is right next to her shop where she sells her starter pack products. Mats’eposays her success is attributed to her business strategy. She invests her profits back into the business to make sure that it keeps growing, and keeps thorough recordsof all her transactions. In the future, she hopes to learn more about bookkeeping and how she can better manage multiple business operations. She is currently looking into making jewelry with beads and believes that it is going to be a success!
“The starter pack enabled me to meet different needs such as food as well as my family’s needs. I found the starter pack helpful because it enabled me to buy shoes for my child. At some point, I was struggling to buy shoes for her and other basic things.
The Young Mother Program as a whole has made me more aware of the areas I was failing in my relationship with my husband. We used to have some conflict but now I know how to handle that. Another important thing was getting tested for HIV. At first I was afraid to know my status but now I don’t have a problem going for testing. I also learned about contraception and now I know how to use contraception properly.
My business skills have also improved. As you can see, I started off with the starter pack but now I also have a salon which is doing well. It’s almost Christmas and there are many people who are going to be coming to get their hair done. I am also going to buy some beads next week so that I can start making jewelry that I will be selling to women who are going to come in the salon. The business is going to grow and do well and I thank Help Lesotho for everything.”
Grandmothers (‘nkhonos’ in Sesotho) hold a special place in Lesotho families. Our Grandmother Support Program empowers 200 rural grandmothers each year with education, access to local resources, and psychosocial support to help them overcome grief and care for their orphaned grandchildren. Read on to meet three nkhonos from Qoqolosing.
Nkhono Maneo has the energy of a 20-year-old woman. She said she will die with a spade in her hands to provide for her grandchildren. She built her two houses with her bare hands although her knees are quick to remind her that she is old. Nkhono said, “I am grateful to Help Lesotho for putting food on my table when I could not provide for my grandchildren because of an illness that had put me on bed rest. I put the lantern light on in the evening for my grandchildren to play outside while I finish cooking. I then take it back into our house to share a meal with my family and talk about the day’s events. I have no words to express when it comes to the life skills sessions I attended. I learnt to forgive and make amends with people whom I had conflicts with although, for some, it is a work in progress. I have been able to manage my anger at the state of my life and build a stronger relationship with my grandchildren.”
Like a thief in the night, death left her shattered from burying eight of her children and husband one by one. She is left with one daughter whom she prays for every day. With tears cascading, Nkhono Mants’ihlele said, “The life skills sessions have given me new hope and helped me to grieve although it will take me time. I had never seen how important I am until the self-esteem session made me appreciate life and my family. My family of 7 members entirely depends on my small pension but because of learning about good relationships, my neighbours and I always share the little we have with one another to get to the next day. I loved the Grandmother Program. I have a blanket to keep warm and a lantern light to brighten my night without the fear of running out of paraffin or not having money to buy a candle. I don’t remember the last time we had a decent meal but Help Lesotho really answered my silent prayer. I feel rich at heart and have found healing.”
“I recently lost my husband and could not bear the thought of being called a widow. I have to wear mourning clothing every day for a few months. I miss him every day especially when I come back from the trainings because I used to share with him everything I learnt and he really appreciated Help Lesotho. When I came home with the food relief and the lanterns I remember him jokingly saying that he can see that I have not been leaving his sight for nothing.”
Nkhono Malerato lives in a household of eight who all depend on her pension money. She has learnt to appreciate new ways to communicate with her grandchildren instead of shouting at them. She now approaches them differently and has seen remarkable improvement in their relationship as a family. “Thank you Help Lesotho for helping me heal.”
“I found out Help Lesotho offers Computer and Life Skills from a family member who graduated from it in 2016. He told me I would enjoy it very much just as he did but I think I even enjoyed it more.”
Molemo started working as a radio presenter soon after graduating from high school. He knew he needed to learn how to use a computer if he was going to be successful in his role.
Molemo enrolled in the program for the computer skills, but by the end of the session he realized that the life skills sessions had a huge impact on him, particularly the sessions on Effective Communication, Personality Inventory and Self-Esteem. He feels that he learned a lot from hearing his fellow participants share about their personal experiences.
“As a radio presenter I am going to do my job so well with the skills I acquired from the program as I interact with listeners and use a computer at the same time. I have been well equipped with skills of effective communication and factual knowledge about cancer and gender-related issues, which inspired me to select them as topics to explore in my shows and raise more awareness about them to people.
I want to applaud the warm welcome I got every day from Help Lesotho personnel from the security guards at the entrance all the way to the people facilitating. Even on the days I was in a bad mood, coming to Help Lesotho helped me cheer up.”
Thapelo knows that he has not always made the best decisions in his life. Until recently, he used to deal with the stress of conflicts in his family by using drugs and alcohol and engaging in risky behaviour. He joined the Computer and Life Skills Program and has completely turned his life around!
“Since I have joined this program, I have been able to make better informed decisions and my self confidence has improved. I can firmly stand for my actions and think sensibly about my decisions. Learning about goal setting opened my mindset to be a visionary, to set good goals and to put the work into achieving them. I have grown up, and I am grateful for this opportunity.”
Relebohile had a good childhood until grade 11 when her father lost his job in the mines. From that point, her family struggled. She was so distracted she perform poorly on her final grade 12 exams. Her family could not afford for her to repeat the grade, so instead she left for South Africa in search of work.
In January 2020 she returned to Lesotho to celebrate Christmas with her family. She started seeing a local boy and found herself pregnant. They returned to South Africa together, but after the birth of her son the relationship deteriorated. Relebohile was depressed and overwhelmed about how her life became so difficult in only two years.
In early 2021, Relebohile bravely left her boyfriend behind in South Africa and returned to Lesotho with her son. A friend told her about Help Lesotho’s Computer and Life Skills Program and for the first time in a long time Relebohile felt a glimmer of hope for her future.
Relebohile’s favourite sessions were about communication, goal setting and role modeling.
“I learnt that having a child at a young age was not the end of my life. I can see that my life has changed, I learned to forgive, even my child’s father. I am on a healing journey now. I am ready to build a life that will be beneficial for me and my son by making better informed decisions.”
Papali first heard about Help Lesotho from her employer who is a former Help Lesotho employee.
“She encouraged me to come and register for computer and life skills and I have never been so grateful to her because I not only gained knowledge on computer skills but I also got my healing in the life skills sessions.”
She shared that the life skills sessions renewed her as she learned how and why it is important to express her feelings in a healthy way. The goal setting session reminded her of the goals she used to have, including studying nursing. Papali is now taking small steps towards applying for nursing school!
“The sessions made me to be a better person, but I am still yet to work on myself.”
When Tsita finished primary school, his family could not afford the high school fees, so he became a herd boy, looking after cattle and sheep up in the high mountains.
From the age of 12 and for 14 years, he lived an isolated life, wandering the mountain sides, without education, support or socialization. When his village chief invited him to Help Lesotho’s Herd Boy Program, he jumped at the chance. This was the first opportunity he had ever had to better himself. During the six-month program, he never missed a Saturday class, soaking up every word and idea, despite being by far the oldest in the group.
When he completed the program, Tsita gave a speech to his community:
“My name is Tsita. I live in a little village in rural Lesotho. I was in Help Lesotho’s herd boy training. As herd boys we spend almost our entire lives looking after animals with no information about issues concerning us. The training has changed our lives—most especially mine.
Most of us were never told about issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, but the program helped us dispel all false information about it. We tested for HIV and screened for STIs for the first time ever. We learned about the importance of good health and hygiene. We believe that this is going to strengthen our relationship with other people out there who have been considering us as animals.
I used to be a perpetuator of violence against women. It seemed normal to us boys to beat and violate women’s rights because no one took any action against it. The issue of gender equity to me and my fellow colleagues was understood as a way of depriving us of our privileges and punishing us.
The training changed my whole thinking. Now we understand that women are human beings like us with the same rights and worth—just like us. Therefore, we as men should stop abusing women and girls. Ladies and gentlemen, gender equity doesn’t imply that men should be inferior but that both men and women should have equal opportunities and power in making decisions about their lives because they both have the same capability.
To all young men in Lesotho, please let’s join hands and empower our beloved women and girls. How are we expecting them to live when we mistreat them? They are our mothers, sisters and wives. Let us respect and honour them for the greatness they bring to our lives.
Now in my village, we have a committee of herd boys who are fighting hard to report cases of abuse. I am making a plea to every man in Lesotho to make it their assignment in their communities. We young men should work together to end violence against girls and women in any form.”
Three years after completing the program, Tsita continues to share what he learned and advocate against gender-based violence. During a conversation with Help Lesotho, he said the program changed him forever. He had been a harsh man, thoughtlessly abusing women sexually. He said that once he started the program he stopped completely and never did it again. To this day, whenever he sees a woman or girl being abused he either tries to stop it or he reports it.
He said that he learned how important it was to know his HIV status, to get tested regularly and to get treatment if required.
Tsita said that he tells people around his village that women must be respected and should never be abused because they have rights. He reported that because of the program, he became confident and can now express himself. Before that he had been so shy that he never spoke to others and could not express what was inside.
He said if it had not been for this program, he probably would have been in prison but now he will never go there because he knows how to do better.
He said that the donors who gave him this program must be very happy because his life will be better. He is a different man and he will make them proud.
Tebello is a bright and vivacious young woman who embodies the very best of Lesotho’s leaders of today! From the time she was in primary school, Tebello has been an active participant in Help Lesotho’s programs. Below you can read a touching tribute from Tebello to Help Lesotho.
Tebello on graduation day, after completing her Master’s Degree in late 2020. As she says – #MakeEducationFashionable!
“As we #MakeEducationFashionable, I want to celebrate millions of people who “gave” money for me and others to have access to this education. Sponsors who gave not because they had plenty, but because they were passionate to restore our dignity as children. I was a beneficiary of the “Child Sponsorship Program (CSP), a program by Help Lesotho. They paid for all my school fees from Form D-E, made sure that I had good school uniform and shoes, books, textbooks and tse ngollang!
Help Lesotho didn’t just give me money, they exposed me to numerous educational programs: young women’s conference, and leadership conference. After one of these empowering programs, I gained my self esteem… And I started singing at school assembly, that’s when I started growing my school talent. I never looked back, I became a better person, grew up knowledgeable about who I am, my rights and responsibilities, my purpose.
I learned a lot about HIV, and how I can participate in addressing the problems that come with it among the youth and the entire community. I also learned how to make better choices regarding my own health, so that I can be healthy, and support those infected with HIV. I have been working in an HIV care and treatment setting, and I am proud that I get to give back to those who need my services the most. As a pharmacist, I know that my attitude towards patient care determines “the overall outcome of patient care is it doesn’t matter how everyone is working hard in the heathcare setting, if I don’t have a right attitude to serve… My patients won’t go home with optimized care. I am glad that the seed someone planted in me since 2007 is bearing fruit in my area of practice daily.
Tebello and Peg Herbert at the Help Lesotho Alumni Reunion, February 2020.
I always celebrate how the adolescent and young girls’ programs are designed and framed to respond to real time challenges of youth in our beautiful country.
If Help Lesotho had not ministered hope in my life, maybe I would have been a victim of ‘childhood marriage’ that is very prevalent in the rural areas in Lesotho. As I celebrate a mile stone of graduating with a Masters Degree, I want to make Help Lesotho famous for shinning a light on my young life, and ministering Hope, so that I could become this unstoppable young energy that I am today. God has been soooo goooooood to me for giving me favour with you.
It was a journey worth taking, experienced a lot of challenges, from financial constraints as a self-sponsored student, balancing work, social life as a young girl, supporting my family…yet God helped me through it. I am forever grateful for the influence Help Lesotho has had on my life -and I apply all the principles in my life daily. First in 2007,I was taught to affirm myself that“I am wonderful”, and I was taught that I should Step up, and Speak Up…and most importantly, It’s a principle of my life that“As a leader, I should never give up”! Thank you very much for the counsel, prayers and all forms of mentorship and support-I intend to make you proud ALWAYS!”
Hello, my name is Rethabile. I am a Mosotho girl aged 28 years. I never had a father and I lost my mother to cancer when I was 13 years old. I was fortunate enough to be raised by my lovely grandparents who sacrificed a lot just so I can finish my studies.
When I was in high school I started taking alcohol to make myself feel better, then life after writing my exams humbled me. I applied to several schools but I was only admitted to one school. As I did not get a scholarship, I had to stay at home the whole year. I used my talent to braid people’s hair to save money to apply for schools again the following year.
I was admitted at Lesotho College of Education toward a Diploma in Education Secondary, majoring in English and Geography. At this point I realized that I had to work hard at school and pass because should fail I was going to lose my sponsorship and nobody was going to pay for me. All I ever wanted was to change my grandparents’ life for the better. Yet, after graduation came unemployment and I started to lose hope again. I had suicidal thoughts because of staying at home with nothing to do, when a friend introduced me to Help Lesotho programs of which I will forever be grateful because it changed my life for the better.
When I first started my lessons at Help Lesotho (Computer and Life Skills 2018) I thought of it as passing the time. I did not have an idea that the way I looked at life was going to change in a positive way. Although the sessions we had on Life Skills were short, they were helpful in a way because they left me so curious that I applied for Leaders-in-Training Program in February 2019. The lesson on self-esteem made me realize that I do not have control over what other people think of me. I realized that if I loved myself enough what other people think of me wouldn’t matter. I reflected on how I almost ruined my future by neglecting school because of what I couldn’t change and had no control over.
Everyday spent at Help Lesotho healed me, I stopped being angry at life in general, people who hurt me, my dad who was never part of my life, and my mother’s death. I got to realize the things I did to other people that hurt them unaware that I was hurting them.
The ability to heal, to recover or bounce back from a difficult situation is the best remedy in the world. It helped me become the best decision maker. I am able to help people and learn from them. I dealt with my fears.
In the past I used to confuse being abused with being loved. I have been in a very toxic relationship unaware that I was being abused. The only time I noticed was went the pain was inflicted physically. I was in a relationship whereby it was a crime to make a mistake. I had no problem with that until I attended Help Lesotho’s sessions and was taught about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Now I am able to speak my mind, am able to see when I am being abused physically, emotionally, and mentally.
My life has changed for the better and I am a new person that my community is proud to have around because through me they know that Help Lesotho exists, my neighbors are part of the programs and their lives are improving.