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.