Voices of Youth on the Issues of Human Rights and the Campaign #HearMeToo: End Violence Against Women

Excerpt of Speech by ‘Mafumane Lephoto - UN Youth Advisory Panel Representative

International Human Rights Day Celebration 2018 at UN Lesotho

As the UN celebrates 70 years anniversary of universal declaration of Human Rights we are delighted as a country to be part of this milestone that continues to value freedom of all people across the world especially when we are currently witnessing more powerful countries in the global North withdrawing their membership and isolating themselves from international institutions that are mandated to protecting the rights of all people in the world regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, social class, economic background and geographical location.

Bringing the issue of human rights in Lesotho, the country has improved significantly in implementing some of the articles proposed in the document through the assistance of UN agencies across the country.

Over the years we have seen more active participation of women in public spheres, they have been given resources that have improved their well being with (education being a more powerful tool employed to empower women and girls).

We have witnessed more women in Lesotho joining the labor force and enabling their families to improve their standard of living. Improved maternal health care has reduced pregnancy related deaths during birth; access to improved health services has made it easy for HIV/Aids patients to receive medication (ARVs), less discrimination and stigma towards HIV patients both in the workplace and at home.

Adequate access to basic services (electricity, food and improved housing, quality education) mostly in urban areas. Women have become politically involved, running for public office which was impossible to do 3 decades ago.

Despite this various achievements, Lesotho is lacking behind on other development issues, sexual and gender based violence is still prevalent. Women and girls continue to be marginalized. Increased domestic violence that includes physical abuse, emotional abuse and marital rape among intimate partners remains a major threat to the well being of women.

Women continue to be underpaid, receive little pay or no promotion at all compared to our male counterparts at work and when women are promised promotions at work they are often offered not on the basis of merits but through sexual demands by those in powerful positions.

Women are sexually harassed in the workplace. Our tertiary institutions are filled with sexual predators hiding under the pretence of being academics while in reality they are there to prey on young defenceless women.

We are denied access to safe abortion leaving us with no other option but to resort to illegal and unsafe abortions that result to deaths or health implications mostly among young able-bodied women. Pregnant women are denied pay or get dismissed while on maternity leave both in the formal and informal sector of the economy.

Women are deprived economically especially female-headed household, Majority of our people live below poverty line. Women are treated poorly both in the public and private spheres, we are expected to work outside the home during the day and only for us to perform domestic chores( cooking, cleaning the house and taking care of children) when we come from work  which is not paid (labor of love) and expressive roles.  

Women are treated as second class citizens. Women are denied prestigious positions in the country despite the credentials or valuable experience they may have gained. We have to do more to convince those in the upper echelons (positions) of society that we are capable of holding high (prominent) positions compared to our male colleagues.

Access to contraceptives remains another challenge facing women in the country as both patriarchal, religious and cultural institutions reject everything they consider threat to their existence, it is their mission to keep controlling women’s reproductive health organs and as human rights activists gathered here we must infiltrate these institutions that continue to threaten the freedom and well-being of women because without preserving women’s rights there are no human rights.