Traditional Basotho Dress

Traditional Basotho Dress

Basotho Blankets

The origin of the Basotho blanket goes back over a century. In 1860, King Moshoeshoe I, the founder of  of Lesotho, was given a wool blanket as a gift. The King loved the blanket so much, he abandoned his traditional leopard-skin kaross in favour of the blanket.

The Basotho people soon followed suit and to this day the blanket is an inherent part of their lives and culture. You will see blankets of varying colours and patterns at all important life events, from marriage to childbirth to the coronation of kings.

Women wearing Basotho Blankets

Versions of the Basotho tribal blanket, or ‘Seanamarena’ in Sesotho, are also worn in every day life by herd boys, grannies and even children to keep warm. Lesotho is the only nation south of the Sahara that identifies the culture of an entire country through a nationalistic article of clothing like the Basotho blanket.

Many people in Lesotho live in farming and animal husbandry based communities and therefore wear clothing that is suitable for this lifestyle. For example, herd boys wear large rain boots, referred to as gum boots, to wade through the muddy mountain terrain with their animals. 

Herd boy in Lesotho wearing gum boots

Most herd boys also wear woolen caps or balaclavas year-round to protect their faces from cold temperatures and dust blown around by the strong mountain winds.

Herd boys in Lesotho wearing blankets and woolen caps

Women usually wear long dresses and skirts in vibrant colors and patterns with blankets around their waists, and for special occasions (like church or weddings) they wear a traditional Basotho dress called the seshoeshoe. Seshoeshoe are worn in endless varieties of designs, patterns and colours. Wearers purchase seshoeshoe fabric and then work with a seamstress to create their preferred design.

Woman wearing traditional Basotho dress called the seshoeshoe

Young men and women usually wear more casual clothes like jeans and t-shirts.

Young men and women in Lesotho wearing jeans and t-shirts

Basotho Hat called a Mokorotlo is another traditional item of clothing worn in Lesotho

Basotho Hat (or Mokorotlo)

The Basotho hat is another traditional item of clothing worn to this day. The conical woven hat with a top knot is made of local mosa grass and can be seen and purchased all across the nation. The mokorotlo is also the national symbol and can be found on the Mountain Kingdom’s flag.

Mount Qiloane (below) is said to be the inspiration for the mokorotlo.

Mount Qiloane is the inspiration for the mokorotlo.

School Uniforms

In Lesotho, school uniforms are mandatory. You’ll see school-age children running around in uniforms (colours and styles vary by school), until they change into their street clothes after school.

School children in Lesotho wearing mandatory school uniforms

Traditional Basotho Dress

10 Things Girls Can Do When They Have Sanitary Pads

For girls in developing countries, menstruation often means missing a week of school every month. When your family struggles to put food on the table, the purchase of disposable sanitary products is impossible.

Girls use old clothing, dirty rags, or even leaves to manage their periods, however these methods are both dangerous to their health and difficult to conceal, often leading to shame and girls being targeted with violence.

Here are 10 things girls can do when they have sanitary pads:

1) Go to school: 1 in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school due to menstruation. When a girl doesn’t have access to sanitary pads, she starts missing a few days of school every month, she falls behind, and she may eventually drop out. Sanitary pads allow girls to attend school without fear of leaks or accidents

2) Restore dignity: Menstruation is a natural and routine part of life for healthy girls and women, but in many parts of the world, it is accompanied by shame and fear. Cultural myths about menstruation  are barriers to open discussion and societal support. Sanitary pads allows women to take care of themselves, stay clean and comfortable during their menses, which restores their confidence, independence and dignity.

3) Start a conversation to empower other girls: Knowledge is power. When women are educated about their sexual reproductive health they can share the information with their community.

4) Understand their bodies: Girls who receive Help Lesotho’s reusable sanitary kits participate in a comprehensive education session where they learn about menstruation – namely that it is a totally normal thing that all healthy girls and women experience! They learn how to stay healthy and hygienic as they enter womanhood. The girls are also given the opportunity to ask questions, because with many of these girls growing up orphaned and alone, they don’t have anyone to ask even the most basic questions of. Girls with Help Lesotho's reusable sanitary kits

5) Be active: sanitary pads allow girl to continue participating in sports, community gatherings and social events instead of staying home in shame during their menses.

6) Save the environment: Reusable sanitary pads eliminate waste! Disposable feminine hygiene products are either incinerated, which releases harmful gasses and toxic waste, or sent to the landfill where they take hundreds of years to break down. Each kit Help Lesotho distributes lasts up to three years, or 150 days of coverage and eliminates three years of waste.

7) Stay healthy: when girls use unsanitary pieces of cloth or rags during their period, they expose themselves to numerous diseases caused by fungi or bacterias. Help Lesotho’s sanitary kits include 8 reusable pad liners, soap to wash them and ziploc bags to transport them to and from school hygienically and discreetly inside a beautiful drawstring bag –  until they are able to wash at home and dry in the sunlight to kill germs.

Contents of Help Lesotho's sanitary kits

8) Break gender stereotypes: In many low-income countries, there is a culture of silence which surrounds menstruation. This is compounded by the limited resources available to help women manage their periods, which limits women’s potential and perpetuates gender inequalities. Sanitary pads empower women to live up to their fullest potential.

9) Impact her community: Keeping girls in school is important to health and development—not only for the girls but for their communities and countries. When girls are empowered, they become contributing members of society and share their resources, ideas and knowledge with their communities to make it a better place. You educate a girl and you change the world.

10) Stop the spread of HIV: When girls stay in school, they are less likely to get HIV infection, their potential earnings go up, teenage pregnancy rates go down, and the children they have later in life are healthier

Re-useable sanitary pads give girls a brighter future – they are given back days of education, work, health, safety and dignity.

Washable sanitary kits for girls in Lesotho are made by local women.

Help Lesotho is purchasing washable sanitary kits for girls in Lesotho (made by local women) so they can stay in school while menstruating. Each kit gives a girl 150 days—equivalent to 3 years—where she has the supplies to focus on her education rather than worrying about menstruation.

Give a Washable Sanitary Kit to a Girl in Lesotho

Traditional Basotho Dress

Trafficking Puleng

In early March 2016, 18-year-old Puleng became a victim of human trafficking.

Like many girls in poverty-stricken Lesotho, Puleng was struggling. She was 16 when she gave birth to her son, working hard to eke out a living for herself and her older brother. Puleng was earning less than USD $5 washing clothes – it simply was not enough. So when her neighbor, a woman whom she trusted, told her of the opportunity to earn more money as a domestic worker in South Africa, Puleng jumped at the chance.

Once in South Africa, Puleng’s good fortune turned into a nightmare. Her neighbour brought her to the home of an older man and told Puleng she was now married to him. Puleng in shock, replied, “I am not married. I came here for work not marriage.”

Paved highway in Lesotho

Human Trafficking in Lesotho

Trafficking into South Africa is particularly easy. Some of the borders are open for 24 hours or late into the night, and border control is very slack. Lesotho provides the quickest route into South Africa for traffickers because once one has crossed the border, the nearest South African town is no more than a few kilometers away.

Most trafficked people in Lesotho are male and female street children, sex workers and ordinary women and girls living a normal life in their homes, like Puleng.

In Lesotho, the unemployment rate for women is particularly high – up to 70%. The closure of textile factories has left a lot of female workers without any work. This economic reality makes them particularly vulnerable to traffickers.

As a result, for women needing to support their families, South Africa is the place to go to find a job. When vulnerable Basotho women hear false promises of a better future in South Africa, it exposes them to human trafficking situations.

Puleng’s Nightmare

Despite her protests, the 65-year-old man raped Puleng and held her hostage for three days. Puleng was far from home and didn’t know anyone, but she didn’t give up. When she saw an opportunity to escape her captors, she ran to find the local councillor.

The councillor demanded the traffickers pay for Puleng’s transportation back to Lesotho. They protested, but eventually agreed to return Puleng back home.

Once in Lesotho, Puleng went to the local police and charged the traffickers. The case is ongoing.

Children outside shack in Lesotho

Lesotho’s Vulnerable Orphans

Puleng and her brother are double-orphans, she says, “If I had parents, I wouldn’t face these kinds of challenges.”

Over 300,000 children in Lesotho are orphaned and are doomed to face similar fates. Without strong family support systems, children are susceptible to traffickers.

Thankfully, Puleng tested negative for HIV and is now safely back home with her brother and child.

Sunflowers in Lesotho

A Brighter Future Ahead

Help Lesotho’s Young Mother Program recruited Puleng for training. She says that the self-esteem training changed her life because it allows her to feel more confident and face her struggles head on. In addition, she is so grateful for the community of friends she has built through her young mother support group.

Puleng plans to give back to her community by sharing her story with other young men and women, advising them to know all the facts before taking a job abroad and avoid traffickers.

Sugar Daddies are Definitely NOT Sweet

Sugar Daddies are Definitely NOT Sweet

The situation is all too common…a young girl is looking to fill a void left by an absent or abusive father, and an older man seizes the opportunity to offer comfort and gifts – at a price. The term ‘Sugar Daddy’ is an awfully sweet-sounding way to refer to men who leverage their power and wealth to bait young girls into a sexual trap.

Read more about the reality of Sugar Daddies. 

International Youth Day

International Youth Day

International Youth Day 2016: The Road to 2030

The following is a copy of a speech delivered by Boithatelo Khobotlo for International Youth Day 2016. Boithatelo is a member of Help Lesotho’s GIRL4ce Movement, where she participates in gender equity advocacy initiatives in her community.

“I am standing here today as a youth representative from the GIRL4ce movement under the organisation of Help Lesotho. This movement is fighting against girls and women abuse in areas of Child Early and Forced Marriage and Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Both girls and boys are part of this Movement and we are doing our best to raise awareness in our communities so girls will be protected and given support.

Our Ministers, teachers, parents and youth, we are gathered today to commemorate the International Youth Day and the theme for this year reads, “The Road to 2030: Eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable consumption and production”. As far as I am concerned there is no way we can eradicate poverty while there is still a lot of girls that are getting married at early ages, some are forced into marriages and so many are sexually abused. We have to keep our heads up and fight for a free Lesotho. We cannot do this alone. Boys! Boys! We need your help to fight all these forms of abuse. Most of the perpetrators are you. We see lots of girls who drop out from school because of pregnancy; we see lots of maternal mortality from girls not having access to help; we see lots of new HIV and STI’s infections; and we see lots of girls suffering from physical and emotional abuse.

You will agree with me that we cannot accept that out of 81% of girls and women who are abused only 3% of them are reporting the abuse. Why? Why should we be ashamed or scared to report abuse? There are laws there to protect us from abuse, so let us make sure that we enforce the laws for our protection.

How can we fight poverty with the abuse taking place? We are the leaders for today, we need to stand up and fight for our rights as girls and boys.