Ending Violence in Lesotho

Ending Violence in Lesotho

August marks the start of a brand new cohort of Herd Boys receiving life saving information through HIV/AIDS education, gender equity training and life skills.

Herd boys like Mphepe (left) and his friend Mohato often have to leave school to earn an income for their families by herding sheep or cattle.

“I started herding animals in 2014; my family didn’t see the purpose for me to acquire an education. My father was burdened by a lot of work so I had to help him with field work and herding animals. I dropped out of school when I was in Grade 4.”

Herd Boy Training

Mphephe, 15, and his friend, Mohato, who is deaf, joined the Herd Boy training program in 2017. The boys live in the rural, mountainous district of Thaba Tseka.

“One of my greatest memories is when I roasted maize (corn) in the mountains with my beloved friend – Mohato.”

Stigma in the Mountains

But not all days are good on the grasslands. Mphephe and his friend narrated the unfortunate ordeal of a day when they neglected the animals while roasting their favourite maize cobs. The animals went astray and destroyed someone’s crops.

“We actually got carried away with the roasting without keeping an eye on the animals; they disappeared and fed on one man’s crops. He was furious and we were beaten thoroughly.”

Herd boys are often stigmatized by their communities and accused of sexual violence, theft, and destruction.

Life Saving Information

Help Lesotho’s Herd Boy program provides the young men with life skills needed to navigate their lives successfully while showing them compassion and acceptance.

The training includes sessions on anger management, drugs and alcohol abuse, gender based violence, as well as an opportunity to test for HIV.

Mphepe says he stopped smoking as a result of the training. After the alcohol and drug abuse sessions he decided to break the smoking habit.

“One of the most important things that I have done as a result of the knowledge I gained during the training is to quit smoking. We were taught about the dangers of using tobacco and other drugs and I stopped smoking, although it was not easy!’’

When herd boys are educated on the consequences of their actions through compassion and support: change occurs, violence ends and hope is born.

Read Tsita’s story here: https://helplesotho.org/tsita-story/


Ending Violence in Lesotho

How to Make Papa

Have you ever had grits? Lesotho’s staple food, papa, is like a thicker version of the southern delicacy. The stiff, porridge-like dish is eaten all across the Mountain Kingdom at most meal-times, and is often the only food Basotho will eat all day.

Woman in Lesotho mixing Papa

Papa is made from corn or maize. It looks soft and mushy, but in fact, papa is rather solid once cooled.

In Lesotho, corn is harvested each March. It is picked while the stalks are still green and the kernels are fat, yellow and sweet. 

The stalks are then dried and cut by hand. The stalks are used for animal feed and the hardened maize kernels are separated from the cobs by hand-grinding.The kernels are then bagged up or loaded into buckets and taken to a local mill for grinding into a meal, called maize meal or mealie meal and stored in 50kg grain sacks ready for Basotho to purchase at their local shop and store in their homes for the winter.

Sacks of processed Papa called maize meal or mealie meal

When the maize meal is cooked with water in a pot, most often over a wood fire, is becomes papa.

Papa has almost zero nutritional value and fills you with empty carbohydrates. When money and seasonal availability allows, it is often served with moroho (greens, like cooked spinach or collard greens) and with a bit of water and salt.  Occasionally a family will serve papa with beans for protein or on very special occasions, papa with greens and meat.

Lesotho women cooking Papa in large pot

Even though they eat it every day, many Basotho say they love papa and consider it their favourite food.


Basotho primary schools provide a free meal to students and often include papa with milk, beans or eggs in order to provide a serving of protein.

School children waiting for meal of Papa with milk, beans or eggs

How to Make Papa

Serves 2-4


1/2 cup mealie-meal
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups water


Bring salted water to boil in a castiron pot over a wood fire (or stove). Pour in the maize, while stirring constantly. Cook until thickened. Portion onto plates and let cool for a moment. The papa will thicken to almost a solid and then can be eaten with the fingers.

There you have it! Papa, the vegetable turned grain that feeds the entire Mountain Kingdom.

Table with bowls of ready to eat Papa in Lesotho


Ending Violence in Lesotho

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

Ending Violence in Lesotho

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.